In order to be able to help local entrepreneurs calculate the social value of the cooperative and prove the usefulness of cooperation not only in words but also in numbers, experts from the Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Center (LRATC) will participate in a five-day training event in Bilbao, Spain, to learn about the innovative methodology SPOLY. Within the Erasmus project AgriCoopValue (Monetization of the Social Value of Agricultural and Food Cooperatives in European Rural Areas), the SPOLY methodology will be mastered by Dzintars Vaivods, CFO of LRATC, and Agnese Radzele-Sulce, Assistant to the Chairman of the Board.

Knowledge gained in Spain will be presented already on October 29, at the Cooperation Conference organized by Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Centre. The use of SPOLY calculations for gaining profit from the social value of the cooperative will allow agricultural and food cooperatives to raise the awareness of the importance of social accounting compared to traditional accounting in the social economy sector. It is already known that the cooperative “Piena Cels” will be the first to test this innovative methodology in the pilot project.

Cooperative social valuation will make it possible to improve the overall image of European agricultural and food cooperatives by helping them to become more competitive in an increasingly globalized market. This is definitely important in the Latvian context as well. Emphasizing not only the material but also the emotional and social benefits of cooperation will encourage more active cooperation between food producers.

The role of cooperation, especially in the context of small and medium-sized producers, was repeatedly emphasized at the conference held in Latvia in early October. The conference “Local products – the driving force of the future” was organized by the Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Center (LRATC) and dedicated to the development of local food producers. 

As one of the driving forces for the development of a sustainable local food system, the topic of cooperation was also raised in the first UN Food Summit National Dialogue “Sustainable Latvian Countryside for Food and Future Generations” organized by LRATC in Latvia on August 11, 2021. The aim was to bring together experts from various fields (food producers, farmers’ NGOs, processors, consumers, representatives of all levels of the education sector, politicians, local authorities, doctors, environmental organizations, young people) whose daily work is related to food, its production, consumption, disposal. Through dialogue, all parties tried to outline the direction in which they want the Latvian food system to move and what the signs will be that will indicate a positive change.

One of the identified features that would indicate in the future that the Latvian food system is sustainable would be the fact that there has been a change in thinking and behavior – the various “players” have to become more open and honest with each other, sharing information and cooperating.

The need for cooperation between food producers of biologically certified products was especially emphasized, which can be explained by 2 factors. First, organic certified farms are mostly small. Secondly, the processing of biologically certified products is currently poorly developed in Latvia, which can only be developed through cooperation and joint provision of processing volumes.

The flexibility of food systems in the future will also depend on exploiting the potential of cooperation, looking at it much more broadly than usual – cooperating just for sale. Farmers need to look more for common benefits through joint purchases of the necessary inputs, co-operation in the use of machinery and field cultivation. Then, even a small producer and grower will be able to store and sell without any problems, local products will be available promptly under the right transport and storage conditions.

The SPOLY methodology raises hopes for an innovative solution for promoting cooperation between small food producers in Latvia.

You can read the original article in Latvian here.