Image of the old mill, which hasn't been used since 2019 / e. cabezas

Frigiliana residents hoping to restart the village's only agricultural cooperative

Each season the olive oil mill, unused since 2019, produced around 50,000 kilos of Nevadillo variety extra virgin olive oil, which is native to the Axarquía area

Eugenio Cabezas
EUGENIO CABEZAS

Frigiliana’s only agricultural cooperative, which was founded in 1956, closed at the end of 2019. It had around 200 members, although only around 100 were active. Each season they produced around 50,000 kilos of Nevadillo variety extra virgin olive oil, which is native to the Axarquía area. The facilities, located near the village’s historic centre and close to the road that connects with Torrox, have a surface area of some 1,600 square metres, which are currently used as a car park.

Now the residents of Torrox want to restart the cooperative. Following two assemblies, held in July 2021 and last March, the liquidation of the cooperative was approved by a narrow margin. A group of members are now starting to mobilise via social networks to try to prevent it from going into liquidation. "We want to keep this oil mill, which our parents and grandparents worked so hard to build by forming a cooperative, in order to collectively defend a common interest", they explain on the Change.org page, where they have already collected more than 345 signatures.

The members complain that the eleven liquidators "refuse to provide us with the list of all the members and other documentation to which we are entitled and they do not provide us with the information that corresponds to us as established in our statutes", they state. "They won’t allow us to stop this closure, this loss of our agricultural cultural heritage," says Francisco Sánchez, a municipal technician in the planning department of Nerja town hall, who is the son of one of the founding members.

Not just tourism

For Sánchez, the cooperative "is the only industrial building that remains in the village as an oil mill, where we farmers can produce our own olive oil without the need for intermediaries, reducing costs for the consumer". According to these residents, their project to revive the company "consists of moving from a management model that does not work to producing a quality olive oil that can be marketed properly bottled, allowing the farmer to sell a product with very special properties, as well as processing all the products of the land that this wonderful village offers us, such as mangoes, avocados and figs".

The group goes on to say, "Frigiliana is agriculture, water, oil, wine and tradition... and not just tourism, to which we are so grateful. We have an age-old olive-growing tradition that we want to maintain. We want the best for our village, our cooperative and our agriculture.”

In the last two years, olives harvested in Frigiliana have been going to the cooperative in Torrox, which bottles the oil under the Nevadillo brand. Among the residents who want to revive the cooperative is María Dolores Rodríguez, who until 2020 had a company producing sweet potatoes in sugar cane honey and mango jam, among other products.

A private matter

The plot where the cooperative is located is land compatible with residential use, for the development of a dozen homes. "The valuation that has been made is just 300,000 euros for the plot, which is equivalent to 1,500 euros per member. It is not worth selling this agricultural and industrial heritage of the village,” complains Sánchez, who says that if the liquidating members continue without providing them with the complete list, they will be “forced to challenge the assemblies in the courts.”

Manuel Villoslada, one of the liquidating members, maintains that the oil cooperative "was not viable. If they have a project, that's fine, but they have already held two assemblies and both have decided to dissolve the cooperative, they should have done this ten years ago", he argues.

The mayor of Frigiliana, Alejandro Herrero, said that whatever the members decide "will be fine". He added, "They have already voted twice and it seems that it is too late, but we are willing to listen to both sides, but it is not a matter for the council, it is a private matter for the members who make up the cooperative.” He believes that "if it had been raised a year ago, time would have been saved".

A banner on the wall of the old mill opposing the sale / e. cabezas