Producer Organizations and Cooperatives in the Mediterranean
from small-scale to multi-million dollar businesses across the globe,
co-operatives operate in several economic sectors, counting over 800 million
members and providing 100 million jobs worldwide, i.e. 20 percent more than
multinational companies. In the agricultural sector, co-operatives play a
critical role, accounting for an estimated 50 percent of the agricultural world
production. Assuming a variety of forms and playing different roles ? from
production to marketing or input supplies, the number of agricultural
co-operatives (?ACs?) in on the rise worldwide.
In the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (?SEMED?) region, Small and Medium
Enterprises (?SMEs?) and family-owned farms are the main source of economic
growth and employment, but they often face problems finding money to finance
their activities or access new markets. The role that ACs could play in
improving access to inputs, finance and markets for the very large number of
agribusiness SMEs and family-owned farms in SEMED countries is widely recognized,
but the latter are not yet developed to their full potential, and therefore
their impact on social inclusion and employment is yet to be attained.
In Egypt, the first ACs were created at the
beginning of the 20th century as ?agricultural co-operative syndicates?. To date, the total number of ACs has
reached 7,000, most of which are engaged in production and marketing. Their
membership is estimated at 4 million and is mainly composed of very small farms
(of 1 to 3 feddans), due
to the land distribution process that took place after the 1956 revolution. The
co-operative movement is facing important challenges due to the duplication of
roles caused by the multiplicity of co-operatives operating at different
In Morocco, the agricultural sector is also very
fragmented with 70 percent of farms having less than 5 hectares of arable land.
In 2005, 65 percent of Moroccan co-operatives were operating in agriculture,
with ACs totaling 1,171. Co-operatives are a central part of the Plan Maroc Vert (?PMV?), an ambitious plan launched in
2009 by the Moroccan government to boost the development of the country?s
agrifood sector. The PMV very much promotes the concept of ?aggregation?
to overcome the constraints related to the fragmentation of agricultural
production structures. Institutions of different kinds are contemplated in the
Plan to improve access to know-how, finance and markets, including
co-operatives but also Groupements
d?Int?r?t Economique (?GIE?) and Interprofessions (professional/sub-sector
organizations). As one of the Plan?s objectives, the Government aspires to
create up to 15,000 ACs by 2020, in order to ensure the full participation of
small farmers in the PMV.
cooperative movement started as a result of an intensive development program
which begun in 1961. The program was reactivated in 2005 with the creation of Soci?t?s mutuelles de service
agricole (?SMSAs? ? Mutual
Agricultural Service Companies), which are meant to provide services to their
members and upgrade farm management and production levels. There are currently
177 SMSAs in Tunisia, with almost 60,000 members, and more than 50 percent of them
are engaged in agricultural production. In 2012, at the occasion of the
International Year of Co-operatives in 2012, the Tunisian Ministry of
Agriculture set new targets for the development of ACs in the country.