FrieslandCampina: “A cooperative is collaboration from a position of strength”06 December 2017
Dairy cooperative Royal Friesland Campina has almost 19,000 members, making it a giant among cooperatives. Just like Royal FloraHolland, this cooperative is continuously changing and responding to the spirit of the times. Frans Keurentjes is chair of the Supervisory Board of FrieslandCampina and chair of the executive board. What does he think about being a cooperative in 2017? “It is ultimately just business; not a religion or politics. It concerns collaboration from a position of strength.”
As well as being chair of the Supervisory Board and chair of the executive board of the dairy cooperative, Frans is also a dairy farmer with 150 cows in Hornhuizen, near Groningen. Plus he has a family concern in the former East Germany. It's a great combination of Groningen common sense and a manager with a helicopter view. Is the cooperative something that belongs to this era? Frans confirmed, "Absolutely. The added value of a cooperative must be evident to its members, though. At FrieslandCampina dairy farmers are members because they can supply all their milk to us. They have a real vote."
Adding value is more important than ever
In 2017 FrieslandCampina's history extends over almost 150 years and 19,000 members, with just over 13,000 dairy farms in the Benelux. Frans stressed that adding value is more important than ever for a cooperative. "Previously, a cooperative was a kind of refuge for farmers. Since then, the times have changed, and farmers have to join forces to operate as entrepreneurs in a market-oriented way. This must come from a position of strength, not weakness."
Collaboration must always be a choice
Why is a cooperative so important? "In our cooperative we are having exactly the same discussion as at Royal FloraHolland. Why are you still a member of this cooperative? Discuss it with each other. Is it the price, the fact that your father was a member? What are your incentives? Collaboration must always be a choice. And just like in any relationship, you have to make sound agreements with each other about how to work together. Keep the goal in mind. How do we reach the customer? And are we really working together or is it more sheltering together? There must be reciprocity."
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