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The cooperative system
In South Tyrol, apples have been cultivated since the 16th century. In the meantime, more than 7000 family farms live from apple production and cultivate an area of about 18,400 hectares (ca. 45,470 acres). That means about 2½ hectares or about 6 acres per farmer, which is relatively little. This small-structured apple production area, however, ranks among the big ones: 50 percent of all apples sold on the Italian market come from South Tyrol. The market share in Europe lies at 10-12 percent, on the world market it is 2 percent.
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Successful through joint use of structures
Today’s success is based on the highly developed and adaptable network that is the result of cooperation between producers, cooperatives, associations, research institutions and agricultural advisory services as well as public and private players. The so-called Learning and Innovation Networks for Sustainable Agriculture (LINSA) is known worldwide as an exemplary model and had its beginnings after the Second World War. At that time, South Tyrol was impoverished, and the farmers realized that they had to work together. The foundation of the cooperation are the principles of self-help, self-administration, self-responsibility and member support.
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Improvement in quality through pooling and research
With the merging of several smaller cooperatives into VOG (Verband der Südtiroler Obstgenossenschaften – Association of South Tyrolean Fruit Cooperatives) and VI.P (Verband der Vinschgauer Produzenten für Obst und Gemüse – Association of Val Venosta Producers of Fruit and Vegetables) they followed their goal of increasing competitiveness for all. In addition, new cooperatives formed to store and market the apples produced by the farmers. To support production, several research institutions such as the Research Centre for Agriculture and Forestry came into being. Today, VOG consist of 16 cooperatives and VI.P of 7 cooperatives that have banded together. Around 95% of the annual harvest is marketed by the cooperatives. With this model, the South Tyrolean apple business has set standards in agriculture, which has been confirmed by the current study by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations).