Friday, 24 June 2016 14:15

Humble coop-city rises to become Sri Lanka’s third supermarket force

Sri Lanka’s surging retail supermarket industry’s newest rising star is from an unlikely source-the cooperatives movement of the country.

"Out of all the top six supermarket brands, our coop-city cooperative shop is the third ranking supermarket for household purchases among Sri Lankan households" said Minister of Industry & Commerce Rishad Bathiudeen on 23 June.
Minister Bathiudeen was addressing the launch of Sri Lanka's first ever Cooperatives Week at BMICH on 23 June with the participation of many Provincial Coop Ministers. Sri Lanka's broad cooperative policy making falls under his Ministry's purview. The first ever coop-week launched on 23 June will culminate on July 02 with high profile International Coop Day commemoration at Nelum Pokuna Theatre, Colombo. Previously on June 14, Minister Bathiudeen moved a Cabinet Paper to celebrate Sri Lanka’s first ever coop week.
“At present there are almost 14500 cooperatives in provinces in various productions, services, SMEs, women’s development, rural banking, insurance, and farming, active in Sri Lanka. What is important to note is that despite a highly competitive private sector driven domestic market, Cooperatives in Sri Lanka continue to report profits and show resilience! Cooperatives are so strong in our retail market that I am pleased to say that, according to the 2015 market survey called “Wallet Monitor” by the leading Market Research firm “Lanka Market Research Bureau” of UK’s Kantar Group, Out of all the top six supermarket brands, our coop-city cooperative shop is the third ranking supermarket for purchases among Sri Lankan households. Keells brand ranked at fourth and Arpico brand at fifth!” said Minister Bathiudeen, and added. “Also, while 26% of households in Sri Lanka visit other supermarkets, almost 13% visit coop-city cooperative shops.”
Stressing the impact of Coops on the rural sector and coop reforms, Minister Bathiudeen said that it acts as a “great instrument to access” the rural economy, rural SMEs and rural credit. “Farmer and livestock cooperatives were some of the earliest cooperatives in Sri Lanka and even today an important sub sector in this system. Four percent of Rs 80800 million total purchase value of provincial primary cooperatives in 2013 were from these farmer and livestock cooperatives. If we remove the purchases of multi-purpose cooperative societies and only take in the purchases of production and service cooperatives, then almost 55% of cooperative purchases are from farmer and livestock sectors. As a result we are now planning to enhance our support to farmer and livestock cooperatives. In fact, we will be setting up a Cooperative Reform Taskforce to revive the overall coops system, which is the third economic force in Sri Lanka. The good news is that of the 14,454 coops in Sri Lanka, great many are on profits.”
Minister Bathiudeen also said that his Ministry has allocated considerable funds to link coops to one million jobs program by kick-starting 150 mini-factories that would produce cottage handlooms to domestic and international markets. “My ministry has allocated Rs 287.5 Million to start 150 mini handloom apparel factories through the cooperative system. Money is ready now. Each proposed factory will receive around Rs 19 million before end of this year to start. Since each factory will create 21 new jobs, a total of 3150 new jobs will be created, serving our government’s one million jobs target. The government plans to enter into buy-back agreement with each new factory and also will help to send the handlooms to the markets.”
Secretary of Ministry of Industry and Commerce said that despite the impact of open market economy, Coops managed to stay afloat and ventured to new sectors such as fisheries, coop hospitals etc. “We want to minimise government’s involvement and modernise cooperative laws of Sri Lanka” he added.
Provincial Ministers joining the June 23 session too stressed the need for cooperative reforms at national level.
Official data discussed on 23 June showed that of the 14,454 cooperatives in Sri Lanka, the great majority are making profits-with only a handful facing any financial difficulties and even some of these are not at a loss -but at breakeven. The Cooperative movement of Sri Lanka was born in a virtually unknown Central Province village called Menikhinna with “Menikhinna Credit Society”-way back in 1904!

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