Business development services for small producers in southern Italy—the case of ASSOFRUIT
In the mid-1990s, small fruit and vegetable farms in Italy were faced with the challenge of trade liberalization. To help them, the European Union introduced incentives for farmers to sell their produce collectively and to improve their farming processes. This article describes the work of an association of farmers and farming co-operatives, ASSOFRUIT, which has been successful in collectively marketing farm produce. The association's services include the pooling of produce to meet the requirements of large buyers such as supermarkets, directing EU subsidies to improve farm production and move into higher-value crop production, and accessing crop loans. ASSOFRUIT includes a few very large farmers who continue to market some of their produce themselves, and this is seen to benefit the association as a whole. The large farmers' knowledge about prices, market outlets and new opportunities are passed on to the association. The association's success is also attributed to the dynamism of the management team, which is always looking out for new projects for which it can secure funding.