Japanese agricultural co-operatives and family farming threatened by reform proposals

30 May 2014

Proposed reforms threaten Japanese agricultural co-operatives and family farming

Read the Alliance's press release on this topic


The International Co-operative Alliance condemns a proposal to reform agricultural co-operative structures in Japan as an attack on the fundamental principles of the co-operative movement and a threat to the unity and welfare of farmer co-operatives in the International Year of Family Farming.

Brussels, Sunday, 1 June, 2014– On 22 May 2014, an advisory panel to the Japanese prime minister accepted a proposal to reform the structure of agricultural co-operatives in Japan.

Among the reforms proposed are:

  • To dissolve existing multi-purpose agricultural co-operatives (encompassing credit, insurance, guidance, marketing and supplying) and force conversion to single-purpose agricultural co-operatives.
  • To dilute member ownership by insisting that more than half of agricultural co-operative board members must be either certified agricultural producers or business managers of private companies (both of whom might be non-members). Currently, in line with global co-operative principles, the law stipulates that two-thirds of board members must be farmer members.
  • To reduce the role and strength of the Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives (JA-Zenchu) by turning it into a think tank to promote agriculture.
  • To drive further deregulation by changing the ownership structure of agricultural land.

Dame Pauline Green, President of the International Co-operative Alliance, said: “these proposals clearly attack the very fundamental principles of the co-operative movement – member ownership and control in particular. The integrated nature of the agricultural co-operative structures, primary multi-purpose agricultural co-operatives supported by unions and federations, mirrors those which have developed around the world. They have been a critical part of the success of co-operatives in Japan, and have contributed so much over the last 6 decades to the plurality of business models within the Japanese economy. Let us also not forget the huge contribution made by agricultural co-operatives to the recovery programme for those so desperately affected by the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami – something the Japanese media themselves told me during my visit five months after the disaster.”

Pauline Green went on to say “The proposal totally disregards the values and principles of co-operatives and the whole global co-operative movement – owned by a billion of the world’s citizens –  will stand with their Japanese fellow co-operators in opposition to the dismantling of the Japanese agricultural co-operative movement and the diminution of the members’ rights in this way. The United Nations has designated the year 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming, but this whole approach of the proposal goes against it. While the UN acknowledges that family farming contributes to sustainable agriculture and the environment, the proposal denies the value of family farming and tries to promote agriculture by corporations.”  

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For further information contact

Jan Schiettecatte
Communications Director
International Co-operative Alliance
Tel: + 32 2 285 00 76




About the International Co-operative Alliance

The International Co-operative Alliance is a non-profit international association established in 1895 to advance the co-operative social enterprise model. The Alliance is the apex organisation for co-operatives worldwide, representing 268 co-operative federations and organisations across 93 countries (figures of May 2014). The Alliance’s members are national level co-operative federations and individual co-operative organisations.

The International Co-operative Alliance works with global and regional governments and organisations to create the legislative environments that allow co-operatives to form and grow. Towards media and public, the Alliance promotes the importance of co-operatives’ values-based business model.

Yearly, the Alliance publishes the World Co-operative Monitor, the index of the world's largest co-operative and mutual enterprises. The Monitor demonstrates the economic impact of co-operative enterprises worldwide. The 2013 Monitor revealed a total worth of USD $ 2 trillion for the world’s top 300 co-operative and mutual organisations, spread across 23 countries.

Operating from a global office in Brussels, Belgium, the Alliance is organised with eight Sectoral Organisations (Banking, Agriculture, Fisheries, Insurance, Health, Housing, Consumer Co-operatives, and Worker Co-operatives). The Alliance has four Regional Offices: Europe, Africa, Americas, and Asia-Pacific.

Further information about the Alliance’s Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade is available at www.ica.coop. Follow the Alliance on twitter at @icacoop. Like the Alliance's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/internationalcooperativealliance

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