Why do we need co-operatives today?
In the 1930s, when the co-operative farmers of the Southern Serbian village of Sićevo built a new assembly hall, they chose for it a motto for it that has remained relevant to this day:
“Co-operation is the principle that all progress is founded upon”
Today, we need co-operatives to halt the decline in agricultural production.
Most agricultural produce is nowadays sold informally, a practice that hurts both farmers and the government. The state misses out on VAT revenue, whilst producers are exposed to unjust exploitation by both vendors and buyers. Trade in agricultural products can be brought back into the formal economy only if the state acts to stamp out shadow trading and if co-operatives resume their role as organisers of production and marketers of produce.
Rural development relies on the existence of co-operatives, small and medium-sized enterprises, and other businesses in rural areas that can drive growth. Time and again, co-operatives have demonstrated their ability to promote rural development and, by employing educated young people, achieve the critical mass of knowledge that will ensure a body of experts is available to introduce new technologies and positively impact culture, education, rural tourism, and other aspects of village life.
By creating jobs for highly educated experts and other rural groups, co-operatives would also contribute to addressing the crucial issue of unemployment.
This engagement would again make co-operatives a driver of progress in Serbian agriculture and rural development.