The new Llotja de Reus reaches half a century of life after reaffirming itself as a reference market. It is the first in Catalonia and the fourth in the Spanish State to obtain this recognition from the Generalitat, and through an open call by the Ministry of Agriculture. “It certifies the absolute transparency of the operation of the Llotja, with scrupulous respect for the rules of competition,” says the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Reus, Jordi Just. The vice president, Isidre Guinjoan, remarks that “things were already being done well”, but now it is officially written down, “what gives the institution prestige”. Something essential for its activity to make sense and, now, it will be time to keep the bar high because, as Guinjoan recalls, periodic audits will have to be passed and recognition could be lost.
With this certificate –which was notified at the end of March and which refers to eggs, almonds, hazelnuts and carob beans– is how the new Llotja de Reus celebrates its 50th anniversary. Precisely on a day like today, April 21, 1972, it was created in plenary session of the Chamber, promoted by the Chamber, the City Council and also by the Caixa d’Estalvis Provincial de Tarragona as sponsor. Two months later, on June 28, the new location of the fish market (the current one) was inaugurated and, from then on, every Monday the facilities were filled with producers, merchants, operators…
“Before, prices were set at the Casino in Plaza Prim,” recalls Joaquim Llavoré, operator of the Llotja de Reus and president of the Association of Producers of Ous of Catalonia (APOC). But with the new building –promoted by the Caixa d’Estalvis Provincial de Tarragona, as recalled by the then president of the Chamber of Commerce, Francesc Cabré (in charge between 1968 and 2006)–, the activity moved. «A bar was located at the entrance because it was clear that, without this service, the fish market would not work. It was also clear that it had to be located in Plaça de Prim, respecting its natural location”, recalls Cabré.
“We were about fifteen people sitting at the table, because then the market was very detailed, and price proposals were made, debated until a consensus was reached. In 95% of the cases an agreement is reached”, says Llavoré. He has been in the fish market from the beginning and up to the present day, so he is a great connoisseur of how things were 50 years ago and how they have been changing.
As he explains, the big leap has been the evolution of communications, which has completely emptied the fish market building. And it is that the fixing of prices is done electronically. “Before, attendance was physical, and people came to get the quote sheet,” he says. A day in which “people came to Reus, and not only for the market, but also took the opportunity to do all kinds of purchases, or go to the cinema…”, remembers Cabré from his side. But later, with the telephone, the fax, the mobiles… “It was emptying, emptying and now everything is virtual, and even more so since the pandemic,” says Llavoré.
Jordi Just recalls that the Llotja de Reus carried out this digitization exercise years ago “to respond to the new forms of relationship of its operators and the methods of consultation of interested parties”, so that, when the pandemic broke out, “we were able to maintain activity as normal.
A reference market
«La Llotja serves to explain many things when it comes to understanding the commercial capital of the city of Reus in relation to its territory of influence that goes far beyond the limits of the Tarragona demarcation and reaches the Baix Maestrat and the fringe of Aragon”, emphasizes Jordi Just. As Cabré points out, it has even helped put Reus on the map. He says it remembering, especially, the two years in which the Llotja de Reus held the presidency of the European Stock Market, after holding the Assembly in Reus “and for having shown sufficient seriousness to face the event”. “There were some who said, ‘But Reus… where is Reus?'” he recalls.
Throughout this half century, the work carried out by the Llotja de Reus has been distinguished on several occasions. In 2010, for example, the Generalitat de Catalunya awarded the Creu de Sant Jordi for the merits obtained during the then more than thirty years of institutionalization and also recalling the royal concession of the Mercat del Dilluns, in 1309 by Jaime II. La Llotja has also been distinguished with the Medalla d’Or de la Ciutat de Reus, awarded by the City Council, for its “persevering work at the service of local, national and international commerce”.
But in the last three years, the Llotja has continued to work to provide even greater service. “The first step was to renew the positions of the Patronat de la Llotja so that it would be even more representative and then proceed to update the statutes,” says Jordi Just. Isidre Guinjoan recalls that the fish market still depended on the 1972 statutes, “so we made new ones, renewed the members of the Board of Trustees and met with the operators.”
Subsequently, and with the opening, in 2020, of the call by the Ministry of Agriculture, to recognize benchmark markets, the one in Reus began to work with the aim of achieving the highest quality certificate. “It has been, basically, a lot of office work, with a great job by the technicians of the fish market and by Virgínia Peña, as an advisor”, underlines the vice president of the Chamber, who also highlights the work side by side with the Generalitat and, especially, the Serveis Territorials d’Acció Climàtica of the Generalitat, with Àngel Xifré as director. “It is a very positive recognition, which indicates that the Llotja does its job well and that the prices are the reference ones”, something that, for Xifré, means “for the territory to give prestige to the agri-food products of the area”.