Japan federation of agri co-ops to set up subsidiary in Hong Kong

The country’s co-op movement has also reorganised under a new cross-sectoral umbrella organisation

Japanese agri co-ops are opening a subsidiary in Hong Kong, the country’s third-largest trading partner and largest overseas market for food, to boost exports.

The National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations, Zen-Noh, announced last month that it would open an office in Hong Kong, with three staff members. The unit will focus on forming new relationships with local restaurants and supermarkets.

A spokesman for the group said it was focused on increasing exports of agricultural and livestock products. The federation hopes to increase exports to Hong Kong to USD $5bn a year. In 2017 the federation’s exports to Hong Kong – Japan’s largest overseas market for food and agricultural products – reached USD $31.9m.

Zen-Noh currently has offices in the UK, the US and Singapore and operates across eight countries. It is one of the 7,000 overseas companies to have a unit in Hong Kong. Japanese firms have 900 local offices in Hong Kong, being the second largest group of overseas companies.

The federation is exploring the idea of opening other subsidiaries as well.

Zen-Noh was set up 45 years ago to deal with marketing and supply business of the JA Group. It includes 993 co-operative unions which are members of the JA-Group and has a total turnover of ¥4.7tn yen.

Meanwhile, Japan’s co-ops are reorganising into a new federal body, the Japan Co-operative Alliance (JCA).

Set up in 1956, the current trade body, Japan Joint Committee of Co-operatives, will relaunch on 1 April as a new cross-sectoral umbrella organisation. The decision was taken after an 18-month consultation with JJC’s members, who have given it their unanimous support.

The JCA will continue to promote collaboration among co-operatives, promote the co-operative business model, make policy proposals and conduct training and research projects. Unlike its predecessor it will have a legal entity.

“If co-operatives are to develop stronger-than-ever mutual ties at the national and local levels, while spontaneously expanding their own roles and functions in their local communities, we need to establish and reinforce an apex organisation that unites co-operatives across the nation and enhances their common value,” the JCA said in a statement.

Daniela Bas, director of the division for Social Policy and Development Department of Economic and Social Affairs at the United Nations, said: “Japanese co-operatives have a long history of engagement in communities, by, for instance, creating decent work opportunities for people in disadvantaged positions, rebuilding communities in the aftermath of natural disasters, improving resilience of people and communities, and promoting the spirit of solidarity and co-operation.

“I am confident that the formation of the JCA will help further strengthen co-operatives and contribute to the achievement of the SDGs in Japan.”

Japan has co-ops operating across different areas including agriculture, forestry, fisheries, retail, finance, health, travel and housing. In total co-ops have a membership of 65 million.