Stuck in a rut: emerging cocoa cooperatives in Peru and the factors that influence their performance
Agri-cooperatives play an important role in helping resource-poor farmers reach high-value markets. In addition to linking smallholders to markets, cooperatives provide their members with various services, such as extension, credit, input subsidies, and social programmes. While the literature contains many examples of success, there has been limited discussion on the often long and turbulent process by which cooperatives develop over time and the viable options for shortcuts. This study examines four emerging cocoa cooperatives in Peru to determine their overall business viability, the key factors that advanced their development, and their capacity to address the needs of their members. Our findings suggest that strategies for supporting cooperative development have largely failed to address major internal weaknesses and the challenges posed in the external environment. The cooperatives have received time-bound, uncoordinated, and often small-scale, interventions, which have focused on infrastructure expansion and technical assistance. Important areas related to business management and governance structures, trust relationships with buyers, and sufficient working capital have largely been ignored. Shortcuts may be achieved through improvements in access to business development and financial services, deeper engagement by private sector to support the development process, and commitment by stakeholders to monitoring and critical reflection for strategy refinement.