Dr. Liam Twomey of Fine Gael calls on all stakeholders to get involved in the future role that co-ops will play in Irish society. He specifically calls for a debate in Seanad Eireann for the Government to give their views on their policy for co-ops in the 21st Century.
“At present, agribusiness PLCs are decoupling from their co-ops to position themselves as businesses that only respond to shareholders needs which means they only need to focus on profit.”
“The co-op ethos on the other hand is about the needs of its members and the wider community it serves. It is about developing a market for the co-op members and its priority is not solely profit motivated.”
Dr. Twomey explained, “In the last few years when prices for agricultural produce were low, many PLCs supported the milk prices paid to farmers with the profits from other high end products in the PLC. This support mechanism will go when the PLC is decoupled.”
“Co-ops developed out of necessity when farmers were unable to sell their produce at a fair price over a century ago. The amalgamation of small co-ops in the sixties lead to bigger co-ops that were able to establish PLCs to bring in outside investors that lead to the success of agribusiness PLCs as we know them today.”
Dr. Twomey says that co-ops are still very important from a socioeconomic viewpoint to rural society, in county Wexford and elsewhere, as well as from a food security standpoint and they are crucial as economic entities. “What is happening in agribusiness at present is much bigger than anything we have talked about concerning rural communities over recent months.”
“The government must be proactive and look for future problems. If anything were to go wrong in the future with co-ops because they were undercapitalised, had taken on too much debt or did not have proper business plans, the taxpayer could end up having to bail them out or else they would fail, which would be to the detriment of rural communities in county Wexford and indeed throughout the country.”
“Growing up on the family farm in the seventies and having family connections with co-ops and PLCs, I have seen and admired the revolutionary changes that occurred in the agricultural sector over the last four decades. However we are now at a new era in agribusiness and we must all go forward with our eyes open to the potential problems that could mar future successes.”