"A cooperative is a tool and not a goal in itself", says grower Eviek van der Arend20 July 2017
Eviek is an independent thinker and not afraid to speak her mind. She used to be horticulture advisor to the Rabobank Westland and knows the horticulture sector inside out. She was there to witness the downfall of The Greenery, the auction for fruit and vegetables.
What does she think of the cooperative as it is today, and its expansion? "A cooperative is and always will be just a tool, not a goal in itself. There's too much emphasis on it being 'a club for everyone' at the moment."
Eviek points out that cooperation created the cooperative Royal FloraHolland. "Growers felt there was power in numbers, so they joined forces in both sales and purchasing. Together, they could tackle issues that were too big for one single person or single company. There was a great feeling of solidarity, and back then all members had similar businesses." Eviek thinks this solidarity has eroded since then. And as a consequence, growers don't feel the cooperative is as important as it used to be. "The world has changed dramatically. A cooperative can become a hindrance too. There's no need to join a club on principle any more. Growers can manage most things themselves nowadays, they don't always need the cooperative's help."
Listening to everyone
Eviek notices, looking at her colleagues, that the larger companies no longer feel at home at the cooperative, as they see other opportunities for themselves. With smaller growers it's the opposite, they see peril heading their way, which is why they have a dwindling love for the cooperative too.
What Royal FloraHolland does extremely well, according to Eviek, is to facilitate everything for buyers. But what should Royal FloraHolland do differently? "Be firmer, take clear-cut decisions. Take the Strategy 2020, for instance. Resulting actions that affect our clients should be communicated more clearly. As it is, all, and I mean all opinions are taken into account. Which means that no one really can identify with the end result."
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