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 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

International Study Tour to Spain

Farm Business Management Update, December 2004/January 2005

By Dixie Watts Reaves, Associate Professor, Agricultural and Applied Economics, Virginia Tech

Dixie Watts Reaves chaired an international research symposium in Valencia, Spain, comparing and contrasting food systems in different countries. The symposium concluded the 2004 Food Distribution Research Society Study Tour to Spain, which took place from June 20 through 26 in Madrid and Valencia. The official study tour began Monday morning in the conference room of the host hotel, the Crown Plaza Hotel, with a keynote address by Dr. Julian Briz of the University of Madrid. His presentation focused on food quality policy and traceability in the European Union and their role in competitiveness, control, and food safety.

Following the keynote address, the group toured Carrefour, a large retailer that is highly committed to traceability from farm to store shelf. Carrefour, headquartered in France, is the world's second largest retailer, behind Wal-Mart, and has been in Spain since 1975. Spain now represents 20% of the chain's business. In addition to touring the store, the group had a discussion with the store's director and the employees in charge of fresh products and quality control.

On Tuesday, the group toured Merca Madrid, a large wholesale market, home to the second largest fish market in the world. The market's 153 wholesalers sell to almost 20,000 retailers. In addition to markets for fish, Merca Madrid sells meats, fruits, vegetables, and flowers on its 176 hectare property. Also onsite are its logistics center, transportation facilities, two hotels, and a basically self-contained city (bank, shops, car dealership). Approximately 80% of the restaurants within a 200-mile radius send buyers directly to Merca Madrid, allowing them to purchase products for about 30% less than if they went through a produce buyer. Individual consumers can shop in the supermarket onsite for an entrance fee of one euro.

Wednesday was a travel day between Madrid and Valencia, with a number of stops along the way: the monastery in Ucles; Segobriga, Roman ruins dating to approximately 5 B.C.; and Alarcon, an eighth century village with narrow cobblestone streets and a castle that has been converted to a hotel. The last stop along the way was the town of Utiel, where the group toured a 200-year old wine cellar and the Bodego Cooperativa Utiel, a winery cooperative with 1,800 grower-members representing 4,000 hectares of production.

On Thursday, the group visited Anecoop, a second degree cooperative with 110 cooperatives as its members. The member cooperatives are composed of approximately 100,000 grower members. Anecoop is a market leader in the sale of fresh fruits and vegetables. Following a presentation about Anecoop's experimental farm, the group took a tour of their 17-hectare farm and greenhouses. The day concluded with a tour of the Instituto Valenciano de Investigaciones Agrarias, the Valencian Institute for Agricultural Research. Their work focuses on the development of new varieties, improvements in the production system, and plant protection issues. One of their current challenges is to develop a high quality mandarin product for the late season.

The study tour concluded with an international symposium on Friday. Speakers from the United States, Spain, and Japan shared information on a number of food distribution issues:

Sergio Mari Vidal & Elena Peris Moll, Polytechnic University of Valencia, "A General View of the Citrus Sector in Spain"

Masayoshi Kubo and Minjmaa Purevdorj, Kobe University, "Research on Future of Rice Production, Consumption and Maritime Transport on Each Area - Synthetic Prediction Method"

Dave Waters, University of Georgia, "Consumer Awareness and Attitudes Toward Irradiated Poultry Products"

Roger Hinson, Louisiana State University, "Responses by Small and Medium Sized Fruit and Vegetable Wholesalers to Industry Concentration"

Dixie Watts Reaves, Virginia Tech, "A Comparison of Cooperative Successes in the United States and Spain"

Shermain Hardesty, University of California-Davis, "Brandbuilding by Agricultural Marketing Cooperatives"

The 2004 Food Distribution Study Tour was a true success, and plans are underway for a possible tour to Thailand in 2006. Anyone interested in participating can contact Dixie Reaves at

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