100+ Years of Continuous Operation. The Agricultural Cooperative of Zagora (ACZ) on Pelion mountain Greece, more widely known by the ZAGORIN brand, is almost 102 years old, since it was founded in the autumn of 1916. Its operation coincides with the rapid historical, technological and social developments of the 20th century.
Until 1950, the transportation of ACZ’s products was made almost exclusively by sea, from the port of Zagora, Horefto. During the 1980s, ACZ took advantage of the country's entry in the EU and created the largest pack house and cool storage champers in the Balkans at the time. In 1996, ACZ gained first throughout the EU the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for its apple production. At the same time, the known sticker with the ZAGORIN logo was added to each fruit.
In the decade of 2000, ACZ focused on investing in the primary sector by planting apple trees in high density patterns. ACZ also invested in sustainability, quality and safety by implementing an integrated crop management system in accordance with AGRO2, a National Greek Scheme. Also the company started the implementation of HACCP and subsequently ISO 22000 in the packhouse.
At the end of the decade ACZ also implemented GLOBALG.A.P. and has been certified ever since. In the last ten years investments have been made in innovative technologies that aim at minimizing plant protection interventions, protect the environment and reduce costs. In 2016, ACZ presented its first processed product, a syrup made from apple concentrate that is used as sweetener in cooking. In 2017, organic apples and other products were marketed with a special sticker. Gradually, ACZ has since increased the quantities of organic products.
In 2018 ACZ was registered in National Index of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Greece. Also, ACZ in corporation with the Greek General Secretariat for Gender Equality and other Cooperatives conducted the first Pan-Hellenic Scientific Research for the Greek Woman Farmer entitled “The Greek Peasant Woman: Current Situation, Problems, Challenges and Policy Proposals to Encourage Women's Participation in the Agricultural Sector and the Greek Countryside”.
Products and Figures
ACZ cultivates fresh fruit in fields of about 1000 hectares. The fresh fruit production, packing and trading reaches about 15,000 tons with 14,000 tons being apples. Red apples make up to 93% of the total produce. Other products are pears, chestnuts, kiwi and cherries. ACZ also produces and packs in small quantities, olives, lotus, peaches, plums, pomegranates and other products from the area. Over the years, ACZ has been exporting products to 25 countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. Total exports account for about 10% of the produced and packed products.
ACZ has about 800 farmer members and over 95% of its employees are residents of the area and family members of the ACZ farmers. One of its main goal is to encourage women to get involved with farming. That is why about 40% of its farm members are women and about 57% of its employees are women. ACZ also owns a supermarket that caters to the village residents.
ACZ implements an ethical trade policy according to the ETI and has a strong social action. It consistently supports sports and cultural activities in the region and offers donations with books or fruits to orphanages, homes for the elderly, schools and various social organizations that host vulnerable groups. Every year young students of young agronomists are having their practice at ACZ. Also, every year many schools and colleges visit ACZ to learn about its activities. The farmers in Zagora and in the nearby villages of Pouri and Makrirachi make up to 99% members of ACZ and claim that this is their “common home”. The new generation of the region connects its economic survival with ACZ and everyone wishes to maintain the “great” heritage they have taken from their parents and all their ancestors.