Diversity of co-operatives

This post is different from most of the agribusiness posts on this site, in that it was written for a professional/academic journal, in this case the Journal of Co-operative Studies. The purpose was to describe the diversity of co-operatives within New Zealand agribusiness.

The paper was written in late 2007, and published in 2008, but in most respects little has changed since that time. However, the co-operative company referred to in this paper as PPCS is now known as Silver Fern Farms, and readers of other agribusiness posts written by me will be aware that Fonterra is currently in the process of further modifying its capital structure.

I am aware that there is considerable interest internationally in our NZ business co-operatives and the legislation under which they operate. I am also aware that there is only limited understanding, even within NZ agribusiness, as to the range of co-operative structures that we have in this country.

In most business schools within New Zealand universities there is close to zero study of co-operatives, which is a remarkable omission given the role co-operatives play within our economy. Accordingly, I post the paper here in the hope that, although now two years old, it may be of interest to some readers.
diversity of NZ co-operatives


About Keith Woodford

Keith Woodford is an independent consultant, based in New Zealand, who works internationally on agri-food systems and rural development projects. He holds honorary positions as Professor of Agri-Food Systems at Lincoln University, New Zealand, and as Senior Research Fellow at the Contemporary China Research Centre at Victoria University, Wellington.
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3 Responses to Diversity of co-operatives

  1. Anyone interested in the study of cooperative business in New Zealand would do well to take a look at the New Zealand Cooperatives Association website – http://www.nz.coop. The site has a lot of useful content, especially the member area, and there are a large number of useful links.

  2. Edward Miller says:

    One question on cooperatives. Are they allowed to take the public interest into account and when, if ever do they do so?
    At least in the US, a corporation (or so I taught) is expected to just maximize shareholder value within legal constraints.
    The relevance of the issue is I would hope that when deciding what to do, and there is a clear public interest, they might go that way. I am thinking of course of what happens when it would be in the public interest for non-A1 milk to be available.
    Also, for Livestock Improvement Corporation, I would hope they would consider the public interest in their decisions on the A1/A2 issue. Has that played a role in their decisions, notably to include information on A1/A2 status?

    It seems clear from your book that Fontera did not give much weight to the public interest in their decisions.

    • Keith Woodford says:

      Co-ops are meant to act in the interests of their members, in the same way that a corporate acts in the interests of its shareholders. Nothing more, nothing less.

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