Citation 11

Mar 17, 2015

Subect 1: Elgidio Mailland
Role: ex-President of CRA

Subect 2: Daniel Asseff
Role: Executive Director of CONINAGRO

Place: Buenos Aires
Date: March 17, 2015


Elgidio Mailland

[8:49] Mailland: “Because each of the organizations kept their identity regardless of the expansion of soybean. The big difference is that we have all the cooperatives and we have a strong commercial interest. The other organizations are more representative of producers, the primary producer as we call it, even if FAA has AFA and SRA and CRA are more cattle oriented, they were the traditional representative of the cattle producers, so we complement each other. Hence, between CRA, SRA and us, we don’t have many conflicts and that’s why the three of us are together in the coordinating committee [still since FAA had left].”

Authors: “One may think that the interest of producers, represented by CRA and SRA, would be with traders who are nearer to your position, however.”

Mailland: “The conflict occurs because we have learned, at a high cost, to be on both sides of the counter. That is, to defend the interest of the producer and the interest of the cooperative who is a trader. This is also a conflict internal to CONINAGRO. I have it with CRA, with the SRA, but also with my own producers for whom it’s difficult to understand the border of defending both the cooperative AND the producer not the cooperative OR the producer [capital letters added]. There is a grey area which is the hardest to walk through [11:06] For instance, on the 17th there is a protest day, I know that in those assemblies there will be the demand for a lockout to protest. In this case, CRA and SRA, it’s easier for them to call for a lockout because they don’t have commercial activities. But a lockout of commercial activities has an economic damage, and our work is to find out what’s the economic damage that I’m willing to take, how much can I close a cooperative to support a lockout to protest and tolerate that it’s a commercial cost that the producer members of cooperative will accept to pay. The other organizations see these from other point of view and don’t discuss these issues.”

Daniel Asseff

[39:15] Authors: “When you think about the demands of producers, when do you decide to call a protest and how do you define the type of mechanism to call attention to your demands?”

Asseff: “We are very pragmatic and we try every possible option of negotiation before calling for an action, such as a lockout.”

Author: “But do you lead or follow the producers who are mobilized?”

Asseff: “We are organic, we follow the demands of constituencies because we are very connected with them and we know what are their feelings and ideas. But there is also a difference between being a leader or a follower. If you are going to bring the people to the road but then you are not able to achieve your goals, how do you take them out of the road. You can go to the road because you want lower taxes on wheat but you know that it’s not possible to achieve. You are being representative but you are bringing them to a precipice. By contrast, as a leader you can prioritize the dialogue first. Afterwards, define the alternatives and analyze which is the best type of action to achieve your goal. That’s the crucial difference between being a leader or a follower.”

Authors: “Are there differences in this regard between CONINAGRO and the other three rural representative organizations?”

Asseff: “You know that we have created the Coordinating Committee to work together.”

Authors: “I have heard that there are tensions among the different organizations?”

Asseff: “Tensions because we represent different producers and many times we accompany an action because we see that their situation is hot, that our constituencies are angry. When the Coordinating Committee decides a lockout, may be the call it for a long period, without end date or for twenty days, but we also have a commercialization activity. So, we say, sirs, it’s not convenient for fifteen days because having a ship in the port is worth 75,000 dollars per day and you know who pays for that? The producers, because I, as a trader, will translate it to prices. Remember that we have large volumes with small margins so we translate cost to prices. So we tell them, let’s start with a shorter-term measure, instead of fifteen days, let’s start with two days and see how it works. That is, for instance, as a measure within the Coordinating Committee.”

Authors: “Isn’t the collective action easier for you given that your starting point is already a cooperative?”

Asseff: “CRA has a confederation of member confederates and FAA has subsidiaries so they should have it solved as well. The corporate action always comes from the bases; you need to figure out how to lead it.”

Authors: “Are there cases of double membership by producers?”

Asseff: “There are many cases, in agriculture an individual producer can be member of the local rural society and they commercialize through one of our cooperatives. We have double lives.”

Authors: “Where does the producer go to protest?”

Asseff: “Normally, the problems of the producer are the same. And the actions, especially post 2008, are similar, there are not differences and then each producer defines what he wants to do. For instance, the Coordinating Committee called a two-day lockout and FAA didn’t join but many of their producers followed us.”

Authors: “Who followed you?”

Asseff: “Producers who are angrier because after eleven years they don’t trust the government and the new leadership of FAA again bet on its relationship with the government and the administration is about to end” [46:10].