Agri-food cooperatives, just like other companies in the sector, are increasingly forced to pursue internationalization processes that can help them expand their markets. To do this, it is necessary to have knowledge about the problems that both cooperatives and companies can encounter while trying to establish themselves abroad.
Professors Teresa Fayos Gardó and Haydeé Calderón García, both from the Department of Marketing and Market Research of the Faculty of Economics of the University of Valencia, are two experts in this field. In the various project in which they have collaborated, they have come to the conclusion that cooperatives are more suitable than other types of societies to launch an internationalization process.
"We start off with the assumption that internationalization is a complex, risky strategy, and that it is consequently necessary for the companies to have certain skills and competences. This is more difficult to achieve for small agricultural companies, which are the most common. Being in a cooperative facilitates tasks like training, market research, innovation, digitization or the dissemination of knowledge. In short, it improves the competitiveness of companies and prepares them for international development," says professor Haydée Calderón.
"At the same time, we must bear in mind that agri-food companies are facing an unstable and difficult international environment, characterized, on the one hand, by the dominance of large retailers (which makes the bargaining power of cooperatives a great asset), and on the other hand, by the demands of consumers who want quality, innovation, good prices or environmental awareness. This makes it essential to have solid production and marketing structures, which cooperatives achieve by combining their efforts," he explains.
It is also worth noting that internationalizing is not just exporting, it is going a step further. The question is whether small cooperatives should be forced to integrate into another second grade one to be able to face this complex process.
"Nowadays, companies don't compete individually in the international markets. What we have is perfectly coordinated networks of companies in control of the entire supply chain. In this new environment, small cooperatives have a privileged position, because they are already in a network that connects the production, processing and marketing."