Decades before 'fair trade' was a fashionable endeavor, the “Cooperativa Agro-Comercial de PR” (Puerto Rico's Commercial Farmers Cooperative) had long been making a stride for Puerto Rican farmers. The cooperative was established to ensure that those producing high quality produce could also receive fair pay for their services. The history of the cooperative encloses in itself the history of a nation.
In 1914, at a time when farmers were treated as slaves and paid measly salaries, the cooperative was formed under the name of 'Comerío Tobacco Company'. By the 1920's Puerto Rico's tobacco industry seemed to have struck gold when American businessmen invested in it. Production of tobacco reached unprecedented heights: 50 million pounds of tobacco in 1927 alone!
Unfortunately, buoyancy was short lived. The outstanding production lead to market saturation and to a devaluation of the product. In addition, the change in American taste from cigars to cigarettes meant the near disappearance of this industry in the island and a desperate state of affairs for thousands of farmers who were left with no jobs. The Great Depression added pain to misery.
In response to this desperate situation, Puerto Ricans farmers joined forces and the Puerto Rico 'Tobacco Marketing Cooperative Association' was formed in 1934. Because farmers were organized, both the government of Puerto Rico and the American government assisted them through the organization that became known as “La Marketing”. Through this new organization, farmers had a stronger voice and could have access to credit. Thousands of farmers joined the cooperative since its inception.
After decades of hard work, in the 1980's, the cooperative changed its name to “Cooperativa Agro Comercial de Puerto Rico”, so that it could now include other types of produce such as pineapple, passion fruit, papaya, and coffee.