To mark International Day of Co-Operatives 2021 on July 3, the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) is calling on the agricultural community – and broader society – to engender a spirit of self-help (#RebuildBetterTogether), and consider the benefits of the co-operative model in addressing some of the biggest challenges facing us today.

Jerry Long, president of ICOS said that “co-operatives are sometimes referred to as ‘the children of distress’ as their foundations are based in difficulties in communities or enterprises but who are also without the support the require from private or public services”.

“In the agricultural sector, we are seeing innovation across all areas, aligned to the co-operative system,” he said.

“Our co-operative livestock marts have showed great capacity to innovate during the pandemic when moving to online livestock sales to maintain this vital element of the agri-food supply chain, while complying with public health restrictions.

“This practice is now embedded in the co-operative livestock mart offering, providing the sector’s farmer members with greater service, choice and convenience post-pandemic amid the challenge of climate change” the president said.

“Our dairy co-operatives continue to develop and invest in alternative processing facilitates in order to diversify their businesses away from the UK market in light of trading difficulties post-Brexit.

“At the same time, they are investing more and more in climate and environmental initiatives, in the circular and bioeconomy, in response to new regulation and commitments under the European Green Deal, a reduced Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) budget and increasing consumer expectations.

“We are actively collaborating with Government and policy makers to drive positive change in the sector but also change that benefits the economy, society and the environment. “

The ICOS president said he believes the co-operative community and overall model can play a significant role in green energy and sustainability, and also provide guidance to other areas of the economy.

“There is an opportunity for SMEs across all sectors to pool resources and capabilities to reach new markets, compete with large entities and trade in a sustainable manner. With over 125 years experience, ICOS and its members believe in the co-operative model and its potential for communities all across Ireland,” he concluded.

ICOS represents 130 co-operative enterprises in Ireland, with over 150,000 individual members, a combined turnover of €14 billion and employing more than 12,000 people.