Times are tough for CASI. Cooperativa Agrícola San Isidro, specialized in tomato production, has been trying for months to adapt to issues that are causing trouble in-house, with strong discord and even lawsuits, and to the strategic lines of its internationalization plan. Those issues include a change in facilities for the Almería-based cooperative, a supplier agreement with Mercadona, and the entry into new markets.
CASI, which is the largest tomato producer in Europe, is changing its plans on the fly. The cooperative's announcement—its ambitious plans for new facilities—made just a few years ago with much fanfare, has all but been abandoned.
Last summer, and to the surprise of many, CASI changed course. It made a tough decision and, under the premise of adapting to the times, it cancelled a 160 million euro investment announced in 2009, which should have been realized this year. The project would have created 2,000 jobs.
The cooperative's overambitious project was to be located on the 469-hectare El Maltés property, owned by CASI. About 80% of the landscape was to be preserved. The cooperative announced that it was going to build the world's largest bioclimatic facility, which would convert it into an industry leader. At the time, Francisco Belmonte was president of the cooperative.
But, in 2013, reality finally set in. That major investment was replaced with another, for "just" 18 million euros, to buy modern facilities beside the Almería Airport.
Agreement with Mercadona
The cooperative has had to address other changes as well,the most notable of which have been commercial in nature, the primary change being a contract with Mercadona. CASI has become an exclusive supplier of the Valencian supermarket chain, gradually replacing Bonnysa. The sales agreement will become effective gradually and be valid for three years, until 2016.
The contract serves the interests of both parties: CASI is trying to increase customer loyalty, and Mercadona, chaired by Juan Roig, is looking to increase procurements of natural products, such as fruits and vegetables.
Tomatoes for China
CASI has already started exporting tomatoes to China, primarily to Hong Kong, as well as to Dubai. It's also finalizing plans to export to Brazil in the near future, as its president, José María Andújar, announced at Fruit Logistica in Berlin in February.
"We must distinguish ourselves from others and seek out new markets while also strengthening those where we already operate. Dubai and China, where we have commenced exports, are extremely interested in our top-quality tomatoes. Brazil is our next mission," he added.
In the spotlight
CASI is on everyone's lips in Almería. A few days ago, a complaint was filed against Andújar for alleged fraud in connection with the new production of Cocktail tomatoes.
According to an official communiqué from CASI, the accusation is merely a "smear campaign against the cooperative, its president, its governing body and its management, with the only goal of unsettling some associates".