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Call For Co-operatives To Work Together

Call For Co-operatives To Work Together
Hirday Lakhan of Northland Co-operative Farmers Limited during 2018 Coopsday-International Day of Co-Operative at Ratu Sukuna Park on July 7, 2018. Photo: Ronald Kumar.
July 08
11:37 2018

Co-operatives can become very sucessful businesses if they work together.This was echoed by Northland Farmers Co-operative chairperson Hirday Lahkan while sharing his experience yesterday during the World International Co-operatives Day celebrations.

It was celebrated for the first time in Fiji and was organised Ministry of Industry, Trade and Tourism organised at Ratu Sukuna Park in Suva yesterday.

He said on the national level there was a lack of working together amongst Co-operatives.

Mr Lahkan said: “We all Co-operatives do claim that Co-operatives are strong movements, however we need to do more and increase commercial activities amongst various Co-operatives.

“We have so many agricultural Co-operatives in Fiji, we all buy our basic farm needs from hardware outlets….if we get together we can import direct from exporters and manufacturers overseas.

“We all need to work towards this… and we are very confident that many things will improve after today’s event and following the formation of the National Co-operative Federation.

“We thank the Co-operative department for being proactive on issues of Co-operative movement in Fiji and helping drive the whole Co-operative machinery.

“While there are so many Co-operatives around the country we perhaps can kindly urge your ministry to further strengthen the co-operative movement to its limits and take the movement to where it really belongs.

“Co-operative when done well are very strong movements.

“We can only read and admire the many success Co-operatives stories in overseas countries. Amul a milk Co-operative in India has a gigantic success. We in Fiji can do it too.

Northland Farmers Co-operative success

“If we could only change around the mode of buying of farming equipment to wholesale and all farm produce selling to be done on retail system… this alone will make a lot of impact to our small pockets.

“Realising the difference we could make, we did not sit still.

“We rented a warehouse just outside of Korovou Town in November 2015.

“We are proud to report that this has been successful and we have continued to date.

“We started with one worker and currently we employ four full time staff members.

Farms-CARE Programme

“Recently the Northland Farmers Co-operative has been chosen as one of the suppliers of the Farms-CARE Programme to supply goods to flood and cyclone hit farmers.

“We are once again proud to inform that we have served a great number of the Northland district Farms-CARE card holders.

“Northland Farmers Co-operative  has also started importing high quality calf milk powder from Australia to distribute amongst all calf rearers Fiji wide.

“Our Co-operative has also bought itself a brand new five-ton delivery truck early this year.”

Challenges

Some of the key challenges he highlighted involved Co-operative members.

“Members grasp on the knowledge of the workings of the Co-operative movement.   

“There are members who do not respond to obligatory payments or savings, not utilising all services etc.

“We believe regular and continuous information and Co-operative  knowledge sharing will help.”

About the Co-operative

Mr Lahkan vividly recalled how intentionally or otherwise, 19 small holder dairy farmers who were supplying raw milk to a company got together and worked hard to achieve one of their goals, to form a Co-operative.

Later, he said they formed and registered a little Co-operative in the rural district and town of Korovou in 2006.

“The new Co-operative gave itself a set of objectives, a set of by-laws and a business plan and started the journey of “together we can do great things.

“They however quickly realised that they did not have the startup funds.

“As such our visioned pioneer members decided to save $5.00 per week from their milk proceeds, each week, every week set for five years.

“The members developed a habit of saving and checked on and encouraged each other to tag along. They opened a bank account with a first deposit of $350.00.

“While the amount is only small by today’s standards it was a very big amount for our young and developing Co-operative.

“It was the seed money.

“By 2011 it was already five years and our Cooperative members had saved some $11,000.

“As planned we started a small business of bulk buying stockfeeds and selling it amongst ourselves and in the Northland farming community.

“With the small start we quickly began supplying not only to our Co-operative members but to all the Chilling Centers including Naluwai, Burebasaqa, Waidewara and Navua etc in the Central Division.

“For reasons we could not continue with the business in 2012.

“We comforted ourselves saying that we needed a break and that we had learnt a lot from little mistakes we made during the short stint.”

He noted that a new management was put in place during the annual general meeting in 2015.

“The new management came in strongly regarding the whole buying and selling system.

“We small farmers always buy all house hold consumption goods and farm use items on retail prices and we sell most of the farm produce like raw milk and cattle stock from our farms on wholesale prices.”

  

Northland Farmers Co-operative future plans

In the immediate future (one to two years) Northland Farmers Co-operative would like to;

“Further strengthen our co-operative administration, drive for more and stronger membership.

“We want to become the Co-operative for all farmers in Northland, Tailevu and serve the nation as a whole.

“We also plan to Move into the Korovou town area and open a retail branch while we continue to run the present wholesale warehouse in Nabilo.   

“We need to serve more customers and add more items to the list we already handle.

“In the long term (three to five years) the Northland Farmers’ Co-operative plans to participate in bringing new incomes for our members like;

1)Value adding activities such as making local ghee

2)Collating farm produce like rourou etc to bulk sale in urban centers and need be to export for foreign exchange

3)And finally we wish to become the “Rural Transformation Center” for the Northland Tailevu.

“We want to become a truly a Farmers’ Cooperative. With the Co-operative  Department and especially with the Minister and the Permanent  Secretary at the helm we are quite positive that our targets and dreams will come to reality

“Recalling what the great Mahatma Gandhi once said..“ without action we aren’t going anywhere”.

“We need to take actions and we are taking some actions.   

“On a similar note I have myself said it many times and say it again “Co-operatives are strong movements and Northland Farmers COOP is no different”.

“Let us all use this tremendous strength we have in us and work these Co-operative and the Co-operative movement as a whole in our beautiful Fiji.”

Feedback:  maraia.vula@fijisun.com.fj

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