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UNICA to form part of 30 EU experts to define legislative framework of sustainable food system

UNICA to form part of 30 EU experts to define legislative framework of sustainable food system
Photo: Unica Group

Within the ‘From the Field to the Table’ strategy, an essential element of the Green Pact, UNICA has been selected, in the person of its director, Enrique de los Ríos, among the 30 European experts who will collaborate in the working group which will help develop the proposed legislative framework for sustainable food systems.

In accordance with the ‘From the Field to the Table’ Strategy, the framework legislation of the sustainable food system to:

  • promote policy coherence at national and EU level.

  • integrate sustainability into all food-related policies.

  • strengthen the resilience of the EU food system.

The European Commission will prepare a proposal for adoption at the end of 2023. The objective is to progressively raise sustainability standards, involving all stakeholders in the food system.

The Commission is rethinking food-related policies in the EU to strengthen its contribution to a fairer, healthier and more environmentally friendly food system. Therefore, different departments of the EU, including Agriculture and Rural Development, have requested the Joint Research Centre to create a multidisciplinary group of experts in food, including UNICA, in order to develop concepts that they could be part of a future legislative proposal for sustainable food systems.


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UNICA commits to UN’s Global Compact

UNICA commits to UN’s Global Compact

UNICA has reaffirmed its commitment to the Global Compact and to aligning its operations with the Ten Universally Accepted Principles in the areas of human rights, labour standards, the environment and the fight against corruption, and to adopting measures in support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). UNICA has joined as a participating member, which gives it a higher level of commitment and greater involvement.

“Our business model as an agricultural cooperative has many values ​​related to this global commitment. But we have to do much more; our company culture must be oriented towards contributing to the objectives of sustainable development as the basis of all our actions as an organisation,” said director of UNICA, Enrique de los Ríos.

“None of this will be worth anything”, said de los Ríos, “if the consumer does not distinguish or does not value sustainable products with social value. In this field, as in the health of the products, it is not enough to be so but to make it known and that the consumer prefers us through collaborative marketing between related companies compared to other companies and products that do not meet these requirements. We produce health, fruits and vegetables that are healthy foods, mainly through social economy companies that ensure that the wealth that is created is distributed fairly. By adhering to the Global Compact we want to communicate that social contribution that we make, the wealth that is distributed in society, the economic sustainability of the product, how important it is for thousands of families the fact that fruits and vegetables generated through the gear are consumed of companies of social economy, from the respect to the environment.”

UNICA joins thousands of companies worldwide and is committed to taking responsible corporate actions to create the world we want.

About the Global Compact

The United Nations Global Compact operates in Spain through the Spanish Network, which currently has more than 1,720 entities adhered to this initiative of corporate social responsibility. Of these, 22% are large companies, 62% are SMEs and 17.6% are other types of third sector entities, unions, business associations and educational institutions. Its objective is to promote the implementation of the Ten Principles of the Global Compact among the signatory entities for business sustainability and to contribute from the private sector to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

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UNICA and Bibabuk launch ‘Veg & Buk’, a pairing of healthy food and literature

UNICA and Bibabuk launch ‘Veg & Buk’, a pairing of healthy food and literature

Nutritionist Aitor Sánchez launched the programme that will last until June with book signings, storytelling and a literary contest for children.

Aitor Sánchez, nutritionist, writer, disseminator and advisor of UNICA in nutritional matters, was responsible for kicking off the new initiative promoted by UNICA and Bibabuk, ‘Veg & Buk’, a combination of mens sana in corpore sana that aims to educate people about the need to feed ourselves in a healthy way and cultivate the mind through reading, since these actions also have an impact on our inner well-being. A series of events until June will combine healthy food with the enjoyment of books.

“Until not many years ago, the food sections of bookstores were full of supposed miracles and solutions regarding our food. However, we increasingly see how modern nutrition and dietary works are seeking to empower us and make us more critical consumers as we take control of our diets,” said Sánchez.

Among the conclusions drawn by the prestigious nutritionist, he comments that “regardless of the works we read, what is without doubt is that during recent years, there has been an unstoppable and growing trend providing very clear advice: the future of healthy eating, both for the human being and for the planet, depends on a vegetable-based diet.”

Spending time and taking care of oneself is vital to feel better. Tasks such as cooking, eating healthily, enjoying a book or exercising are essential parts of a healthy lifestyle. “Not only do we have to nourish our body, but also our mind,” stresses Sánchez.

The Bibabuk bookstore has prepared an exhibition of recommended books dealing with healthy eating habits for adults, for young children, for pregnant women, and so on. Throughout the ‘Veg & Buk’ campaign, customers who purchase one of the selected books will be presented with a little box of vegetables.

A monthly calendar of activities has been prepared that will conclude next June. The next appointment will be on Tuesday, April 14, with a meeting about the work ‘Don’t let Cibeles find out’ by Almeria novelist Mar de los Ríos. The writer has been one of the driving forces behind this initiative. “It’s a project that began this summer when I made a literary journey through the United Kingdom. I took my ancestral love for literature, which is much more incarnate in general among the Anglo-Saxon and northern European populations than in our country,” said the novelist. In his visits to many bookstores he observed that people use them as reading temples, besides being stores where books are sold. “You breathe another environment,” he explains, “where the reader has gone to have a good time without haste and where he or she can read at pleasure.” In addition, many of them need to drink something frugally while reading. This was the embryo of ‘Veg & Buk’.

On May 2, in the central tent of the Almeria Book Fair, there will be a storytelling based on the book ‘The rebellion of vegetables’ by David Aceituno and Daniel Montero. Finally, vegetable snack boxes will be distributed among the children in attendance.

On June 20, as the culmination of the ‘Veg & Buk’ project, on the Rambla, in front of Bibabuk, the prizes of the I ‘Veg & Buk’ Story Contest will be awarded under the motto ‘Books and vegetables for children between 8 and 12 years’.

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UNICA becomes first Andalusian cooperative to obtain AOP recognition

UNICA becomes first Andalusian cooperative to obtain AOP recognition


Unica Group, S.C.A. is the first Andalusian cooperative to be recognised as an AOP (Association of Fruit and Vegetable Producer Organisations) by the General Directorate of Industries, Innovation and Agrifood Chain of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development of Andalusia.

The main objective of creating this entity (AOP) is to improve the competitiveness of primary producers through their integration into the agri-food chain. In future negotiations of the regulations of the post-2020 CAP, which incentivises the use of AOPs in the fruit and vegetable sector, UNICA could benefit from EU aid of up to 5.5% (compared to the current 4.1%) to finance the interventions of its operational programme related to certain objectives (R&D, environment, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, promotion, stimulation of consumption, prevention and crisis management) . This would translate into approximately 35% more aid for the farmer.

“The recognition of the AOP is one more step that, together with the clear strategy of strengthening the link with our customers and with the consumer, allows us to increase profitability for farmers,” said director of UNICA, Enrique de los Ríos.

UNICA is the first cooperative to be recognised as an AOP of fruits and vegetables in Spain.

Concentration and efficiency, without losing identity

Today, 22 cooperatives form UNICA (including the six linked to Coopaman) are distributed across Andalusia, Murcia, Castilla-La Mancha, and the Valencian Community. They maintain their governing bodies, presidents and managers, and retain their identity and centralise their commercial management in line with the specifications of UNICA. UNICA’s success is based on renouncing private interests in favour of the common good, as well as on total transparency. The concentration of supply allows cost savings and ensures greater competitiveness by taking advantage of economies of scale.

It is a model based on co-management, where cooperatives participate jointly in the company’s strategy in making decisions about markets or customers and always with permanent information. In addition, their presidents and managers continue to be responsible for hiring their warehouse staff and other relevant decisions of their cooperative.

The mission of UNICA is to ensure the multiannual profitability of the farmer in a sustained way, planning the crops and strengthening the bond with the clients, discarding the idea that the focus of attention should be on the price of the day – all this with absolute transparency in terms of information.

The cooperatives that are part of UNICA centralise services such as information technology, billing, marketing, communication and business development, commercial department, industrial department, quality or technical department, thus reducing marketing expenses to obtain the highest profitability of the member.


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UNICA’s sales up 44% since beginning of campaign, with over 107 million kilos

UNICA’s sales up 44% since beginning of campaign, with over 107 million kilos

Enrique de los Ríos, general director of UNICA, points out that “concentration is more necessary than ever.”

Unica Group has reached a sales volume of more than 107 million kilos since the 2019/20 campaign started on September 1; an increase of 44% compared to the same period of the previous year. The 2018/2019 campaign recorded a 33% increase in sales.

This increase is due, firstly, to the organic growth of existing cooperatives, which have increased their volume by 21%, thanks to the incorporation of new farmers. Secondly, the growth also derives from the incorporation of new cooperatives in the UNICA project: Coopaman, Sunaran, Copisi and Nulexport. The growth contributed by these new entries is 23%.

Within the natural growth of the cooperatives, there is an increase of 13% in organic production, motivated by the increased demand for these products, as well as the commitment of the farmers in the Unica Group

In a complex campaign for agriculture such as the current one, UNICA wishes to highlight the “urgent need to articulate proposals around large groups that develop better marketing, innovation and effective lobbying on strategic issues such as third countries, water, immigration, etc. with all the actors and especially the administrations, from the local, through the regional and national to the European, and for this the concentration is more necessary than ever. Complaining in a group is fine, but we have to make things happen that we need to happen and there are some of them that depend basically on us,” said de los Ríos.

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UNICA to reach 500 million kilos in next campaign following incorporation of Copisi

UNICA to reach 500 million kilos in next campaign following incorporation of Copisi

The group maintains its position as the largest agro-food company in Almeria and the largest horticultural exporter in Spain, with an expected turnover of €550 million.

UNICA expects to reach 500 million kilos in the next campaign and consolidate its position as the leading agro-food company in Almería, following the incorporation of Copisi (Cooperativa San Isidro Labrador S.C.A.), approved by the assembly on July 4. Copisi’s production volume exceeds 30 million kilos and its main products are California pepper, Almeria cucumber and, to a lesser extent, aubergine and watermelon, among others. Copisi will add volumes to UNICA in some of the products in its catalogue for which there is greatest demand.

Turnover for the next campaign is expected to reach €550 million, which includes the services offered by the cooperatives.

For UNICA, this season will close with an estimated increase of 34% and, next year’s growth is also expected to be around 30%, thanks to the latest additions, which besides Copisi, include: Coopaman (a second-degree cooperative specialised in garlic and European leader in the production of purple garlic, with a total commercialised volume of 20 million kilos), Sunaran (dedicated to production and marketing of citrus in the Guadalquivir Valley, with a production of 50 million kilos).

Copisi, based in El Ejido, is one of the longest-running cooperatives in Almeria. At present, it has 160 members, 300 hectares of crops and more than 700 workers divided into the areas of production, processing, marketing and management.

The Copisi cooperative is of family origin and has maintained great stability since its founding in the 1970s. For Copisi, the annexation to UNICA represents a qualitative leap to reach new clients that have a winning strategy in the market and with which Unica works jointly.

“Just as we joined together in cooperatives fifty years ago, now we are joining a second-tier cooperative. We have fewer intermediaries, we make more volumes and our clients count on us,” said president of Copisi, Rosendo Pozo. “The new generations are less conformist and want to have access to all the news that is coming to market. Rather than innovate, we have opted to concentrate volume. With this operation, we have more possibilities to innovate with UNICA, with new varieties, organics and everything that the market demands.”

For the president of UNICA, José Martínez Portero, this is a very important step: “We have now added more greenhouse product than we already had. This is a true concentration of supply, which is why UNICA was founded. Removing operators from the market is good for farmers and that is why we have to fight for it.”.

UNICA operates in Almería, Granada, Málaga, Murcia, Cádiz, Córdoba and Cuenca through: Agrolevante, Cabasc, Camposol, Casur and Parquenat (part of the new Natursur), Coopaman, Cohorsan, Cota 120, Europeans, Granagenil, El Group, Ferva, Parafruts, Virgen del Rocío and Sunaran. The fresh production of the AN Group cooperatives is also sold through Unica Fresh.

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Unica Group offers staff colorectal cancer screening

Screening is the best way to prevent colorectal cancer, which is the most common cancer in Spain, for both sexes, affecting more than 400,000 people and with 30,000 new cases a year. However, there is a 90% success rate for treatment if detection occurs at an early stage.

Unica Group is offering its employees, cooperatives and partners aged over 50 the opportunity to participate in a screening programme for colorectal cancer.

The Almeria-based group said the move is part of its ongoing innovation, including in the area of corporate social responsibility, and reflects the importance it places on the health of its workers and partners.

Medical specialist José Manuel Rodríguez Laiz said the Unica Group initiative is one of the first of its kind in the field in Spain and a very positive one.

In a joint press release, he said screening is the best way to prevent colorectal cancer, which is the most common cancer in Spain, for both sexes, affecting more than 400,000 people and with 30,000 new cases a year. However, there is a 90% success rate for treatment if detection occurs at an early stage.

Unica Group spans companies in Almería, Granada and Murcia, namely the Cabasc, Casur, Cohorsan, Cota 120, El Grupo, Ferva, Parque Natural, Agrolevante and Parafruts cooperatives.

Today, March 31, is colorectal cancer awareness day.