Anja Wolff is Head of Sales and Marketing at Reismühle Brunnen, an integrated Division of Coop.


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How to create win-win situations when engaging with small-scale farmers? An interview with Anja Wolff from Reismühle Brunnen, an integrated Division of Coop, the second largest retailer in Switzerland.

Rural 21: Ms Wolff, why did Reismühle Brunnen start the ‘fair & good’ project six years ago?

Anja Wolff: We have already been working in the Fairtrade sector for more than 15 years. The ‘fair & good’ project was launched to ensure a steady supply of sustainably grown rice and promote environmentally friendly organic cultivation, which improves the living standards of the farmers.

You are the market leader for bio-Fairtrade rice in Europe – and in this market segment, you work exclusively with smallholders. How can you assure the quality level of your product in this context?
Our local partners work according to clearly defined specifications that we set together with them. Furthermore, the entire production process is controlled. During the growing period, agricultural extension specialists pay regular visits to the farmers and also supervise the entire post-harvest process with them. The farmers dry the rice locally, in the sun. With paddy, the right degree of drying is crucial to prevent mildew infestation. Quality is tested at purchase, and farmers charge a better price for higher quality. In addition, the co-operative works in accordance with a clearly defined Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point concept that was defined together with us.

Doesn’t side selling worry you?
Side selling accounts for perhaps one to two per cent. But as a rule, that doesn’t bother us because we simply pay better than other purchasers. After all, the System of Rice Intensification Premium, the Bio Premium and the FairTrade Premium ensure higher prices. And the farmers are contractually bound, for they have had their land entered for rice cultivation in a farm register via the co-operative. Of course there will always be the odd black sheep, but the farmers sort this out themselves. Anyone who doesn’t play the game is kicked out.

So the good prices are the chief advantage for the farmers?
What counts is that we offer the farmers planning certainty.

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