Standing Cmte on Agricultural Coops: IFAP/ICA Joint Meeting

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   This document has been made available in electronic format  
            by the Committee for the Promotion and 
               Advancement of Cooperatives COPAC
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       STANDING COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURAL COOPERATIVES

                        19th April 1996

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                    SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
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1.   Under the co-chairmanship of Martin Nielsen (Denmark) and
Mario Dumais (Canada), the Standing Committee on Agricultural
Cooperatives was welcomed to France by Joseph Ball, President
of the Confederation of French Agricultural Cooperatives. In  his
address, the economic importance of the agricultural cooperative
sector in France, both domestically  and at international level
as well as its fundamental contribution to the social framework
of the rural areas over many decades, was highlighted.

2.   For the first time, the session was held jointly with the
Agricultural Committee of the International Co-operative
Alliance.  Sharing as they do, common members and common issues
of concern, this initiative was welcomed as means to streamline
and consolidate action between the two Committees.

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Cooperation in the Year 2010
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3.   The Federation of Danish Cooperatives presented an update
of its ongoing study on identifying possible future scenarios for
cooperatives in the year 2010. By looking from 'the future
backwards', cooperatives can thus already prepare themselves for 
certain actions which will be necessary for the sector to adapt.
Such scenarios included implications and consequences for
cooperative collaboration  with the private sector with regard
to:  
     i) the search for new capital - for example accepting
     employees and external investors as members, 

     ii) the use of private transportation services,  

     iii) jointly-owned processing facilities and 

     iv) transborder cooperative alliances.  

The preliminary conclusions of such a study demonstrated the
importance of the cooperative sector to be forward-looking  and
anticipate changes.

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Strategies for coping in the new liberal market economy
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4.   The Committee continued its process of monitoring and
evaluating strategies adopted by various members in different
regions of the world  in response to increasing privatization and
deregulation of the markets, and to the new liberal market
economy. Four presentations were made.

     i)   The Saskatchewan Wheat Pool (Canada) focused on two
     issues: the diversification strategy of their activities
     especially into the value-added end of agro-industry, and
     their successful transformation into a publicly-traded
     cooperative through an equity conversion plan, the
     objective being to source new investment funds whilst
     maintaining their cooperative status and activities.

     ii)  Within the context of globalization, the Organization
     of Brazilian Cooperatives highlighted how their sector was
     adjusting on various fronts with regard to financial and
     commercial policy, tariff structures, privatisation of
     public companies and patent legislation.  The agricultural
     sector is putting particular emphasis on increased
     participation in international trade and  in the search for
     strategic alliances to improve their performance in
     international markets.

     iii)  The Ja-Zenchu (Japan) is undergoing a marked
     restructuring of the sector through the promotion of merger
     schemes and organizational consolidation of cooperatives
     especially at primary level. It is also strengthening its
     marketing activities based on greater collaboration with
     consumers. 

     iv)  The Agricultural Cooperative Business Chamber (South
     Africa) recognised that with the liberalization of
     international trade, stiffer competition both from imports
     and on the export market would require greater attention
     being given to both production and marketing decisions. 
     Since members still view their cooperatives as a mechanism
     for providing  price security, various risk-reducing 
     instruments  such as options and futures markets had been
     investigated and were being developed.  

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Cooperatives and competition policy
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5.   Another concern shared by many cooperatives is changing
legislation or proposed changes in certain legislation aimed to
control or restrict cooperative expansion due to their perceived 
'monopoly' status in certain markets  or in certain activities. 
The experience of the Swedish Cooperative sector within the
framework of the 1993 Swedish Competition Act provided a picture
of the problems that farmers' cooperatives can encounter in a
setting that, in many cases, is characterized by ignorance about
the cooperative corporate form - and by an unwillingness to
regard this cooperation as a valuable component of the business
sector.

6.   Two topics which affect all cooperatives no matter where
they are in the world - concern leadership training and
attracting young farmers into cooperatives. Two secretariat 
papers were presented on these themes. 

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Leadership training
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7.   The performance of a cooperative board is critical to the
success of a cooperative and in an increasingly complex and
sophisticated business environment, it was recognized that the
training of cooperative farm leaders to make them aware of their
tasks and responsibilities was not only desirable but essential. 
Concentrating on defining, developing and monitoring the
cooperative's policy, mission and strategies required training
in a broad range of areas from legal, financial and accountancy 
skills to human resource and crisis management skills. 

8.   It was important that farm leaders understood issues
pertaining to the macroeconomic environment such as structural
adjustment programmes and economic liberalization. Stress was
placed on the importance of training farmers to be managers of
cooperatives rather than bringing in managers from outside as
well as targeting groups of leaders or potential leaders at all
levels rather than focusing on individuals. The difficulty of
encouraging women onto cooperative boards was also raised. The
need for external resources for specific training programmes for
developing countries cooperatives  was underscored.

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Attracting young farmers into cooperatives
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9.   Strengthening the membership of young farmers in
cooperatives and tying them into the movement is essential if
cooperatives are to survive in their current form and ensure a
dynamic future for the sector. To achieve this, the specific
characteristics of today's young farmers and the constraints
under which they work, have to be taken into consideration by 
cooperatives when targeting services to them. 

10.  It was pointed out that in many developing countries, until
farming became more economically attractive, young people would
continue to gravitate to the cities. The difficulty for them to
access credit was also raised.  Although the negative image of
cooperatives - especially their politicization - was still a
problem in some countries, in others, young farmers were now 
successfully emerging into cooperative leadership positions.
Various programmes and specifically-targeted actions to 
encourage young farmers into cooperatives were described by the
United States, Denmark and Egypt.

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Future collaboration between IFAP and ICA
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11.  After highlighting the similarity in objectives and
membership between IFAP and ICA, the Director-General of ICA 
reviewed current areas of collaboration between the two
organizations. These included joint work at international level
especially with regard to influencing UN agencies, through their
joint membership in the Committee for the Advancement and
Promotion of Cooperatives (COPAC) and in exchange of information.
Areas common to both organizations included women, youth and the
environment.  New areas for possible future collaboration
included joint research projects and contribution to statistical
studies, developing policy and strategic adjustment, developing
country activities and joint participation in each others'
meetings.

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Election of Officers
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12.  Since Martin Nielsen was stepping down as chairman after
only one term of office, elections were held. Bernard Wolimbwa
(Uganda) was elected as Chairman and Dr. Menon (India) Vice
Chairman. Mario Dumais (Canada) was returned for a second term
of office as Vice Chairman.