The example of Prespes

The Bean Producers’ Cooperative of Prespes was founded in 2004 to solve a serious problem facing growers – that of distribution. The cooperative’s president, Nikos Stergiou, points out that of some 1,250 metric tons of beans produced by its members, more than a quarter remained unsold, despite demand for them. «Merchants came and sold hundreds of tons of Prespes beans but had invoices for just 50 tons,» he explained. For the past three years, however, all the cooperative’s produce has been sold. «In fact, this has been our best year.» What has changed? «We became active, we implemented an integrated management system, we certified our products and we monitor production. We reduced the cost of production and now we are going to set up our own selection and packing station so we can present our produce in our own packaging.» Only 25 of the 100 or so producers in the area who account for half the production of Prespes beans have joined the cooperative. Why don’t the rest want to join? «Maybe because in Greece the word cooperative doesn’t sound good,» says Stergiou, though he believes that will soon change, at least in Prespes.