The Cooperative Movement

In 1889 Sir Horace Plunkett started the producer cooperative movement. The Co-op Societies grew rapidly in numbers and prospered, especially in the dairy and pig-meat sectors (7). Today the cooperative movement continues to flourish, with some of the larger cooperatives, particularly in dairying, being very successful international food business organizations. Since the mid-1980s a few of these larger cooperatives have adopted a rather unique cooperative—public company joint ownership structure. The linkage by the cooperatives to a public company structure has provided finance for international growth. Cooperative types involve both primary cooperatives, in which membership consists of farmer suppliers, and secondary cooperatives, in which particular functions are performed on behalf of the primary cooperatives that constitute the membership. The Irish Dairy Board, which markets dairy products internationally on behalf of primary dairy cooperatives under the brand name Kerrygold, is a good example of a successful secondary cooperative. The Irish Cooperative Organisation Society (I.C.O.S.) is the national representative and promotional agency for cooperatives in Ireland, while the Centre for Co-operative Studies in University College Cork conducts research and provides education on all aspects of cooperatives.

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