Food cooperatives in the EU
We hereby present to you the report "Food cooperatives in the EU. Lessons for Poland". It aims to introduce the subject of cooperatives, both from the historical and the current perspective. The report is based on the study of the organizational solutions adopted by food cooperatives in four EU countries - Hungary, Czechia, Italy, and Spain, conducted in 2022. The second part of the report is devoted to formal and legal issues related to the activities of food cooperatives in Poland. The report also includes recommendations on the further development of the food cooperative sector in Poland which are the result of the deliberations of a gathering of representatives of cooperatives from all over Poland that took place in November 2022.
“Food cooperatives are grassroots initiatives – mostly informal in Poland – aimed at obtaining high-quality agricultural produce, food products or personal hygiene products directly from local producers. The criteria for the operation of a given cooperative, including the food sold within a given network, are negotiated democratically by the members of individual organisations. The activities of cooperatives are socially, environmentally, and economically important and are therefore in line with the European Green Deal Strategy. Research has shown that Polish cooperatives are mainly supplied by organic farmers (not always certified) and small food processing businesses that use local products, while customers/consumers, knowing their suppliers, make informed purchasing decisions. Thereby, food cooperatives have long been putting into practice the objectives of the EU‘s „Farm to Fork“ Strategy, which assumes that all actors in the food chain, from the primary producer to the final consumer, must play a role in the creation and functioning of a sustainable food system. Thanks to the informed consumers from these grassroots initiatives, environmentally sound agriculture (e.g. regenerative agriculture) is developing in Poland in a more sustainable way, as the farmers who choose this type of farming practices have greater certainty of being able to sell their produce. […]
The objective behind this report is twofold: firstly, to explore the patterns of operation followed by cooperatives in selected European countries – both those, such as Czechia and Hungary, with a fairly similar recent history (the communist period) and those with a slightly different socio-economic structure and history – such as Spain and Italy. Secondly, looking at how food associations function in the selected locations is intended to inspire reflection on the situation of Polish food cooperatives today and to develop ideas about possible development paths for the sector. The aim of the study is therefore to improve the functioning of food cooperatives in Poland and to create conditions for the dissemination of the cooperative model. In order to achieve it, the legal and organisational models found in four other EU countries will be studied and described, providing a reference point for our work in Poland. The information gathered will support cooperativists in designing further organisational solutions for the food cooperative sector as well as disseminating the ethos and model of cooperative organization” - from “Cooperatives in theory”, pp. 8-14.
The report was developed within the project "Polish Food Cooperatives – Paths of Development" carried out by Grochowska Cooperative Foundation in cooperation with the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Warsaw and EIT Food.
Table of contents
Cooperatives in theory
Why it is worth talking about food cooperatives
New cooperativism for the new times? 3
The institutions of the common 5
Food cooperatives in Poland 8
Objective and research method of the report 13
The origins of food cooperatives in poland. On the benefits of umbrella organisations 16
‘Kooperatywa’ or 'spółdzielnia'. Terminological issues 21
Analysis of the key dimensions of food cooperatives activities
Motivation, social base 47
Organisational solutions 50
Ancillary activities 27
Product selection criteria 54
Institutional environment 55
Cooperatives and the law
Legal solutions for polish cooperatives
Case study of the Warsaw Food Cooperative "Dobrze" 61
Final Remarks 73