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There has been a strong cooperative organizing tradition in Vojvodina for more than 150 years. The first cooperative farm – credit cooperative in Vojvodina, founded in 1846 in Backi Petrovac, was the third of its kind in the World.

Soon, sensing the advantage of such a form of organizing, new cooperatives were established in these parts: Erdevik in 1855, Titel and Pivnice in 1868, Glozane in 1869, Ruma in 1883, etc.

In the first half of the 20th century the cooperative movement in Vojvodina grew in parallel to the cooperative movement in the more developed European countries. Until 1937 the cooperatives in Vojvodina operated under Austro-Hungarian laws that didn’t restrict cooperative members from realizing economic gain. The development of cooperatives flourished up to the beginning of World War II, based on market principles. Throughout World War II, most of the cooperatives and cooperative unions ended their production due to the economic crisis and war destruction.
From the end of World War II through the 1990s four models of cooperative organization evolved and were supported by the state:

  • Purchase and sale cooperatives,
  • Farmers work cooperatives,
  • General agricultural cooperatives, and
  • Basic cooperative organizations

    Contrary to the years before the war, the succeeding period led mainly to a deterioration of the cooperative movement and related market principles. The government’s continued intervention in the area of cooperatives (as well as in other fields of agriculture) contributed to farmers’ growing distrust of the cooperative system itself and of other forms of associating for the purpose of acquiring materials and equipment, cultivation and sales of products; this is primarily why farm-based agricultural production in our country fell behind in comparison to that of other market-based economies.

    1988 amendments to the constitution of The Federative Republic of Yugoslavia again introduced cooperative ownership as an equal form of ownership, and in 1990 the government declared a new Law on Cooperatives. This law enabled agricultural cooperatives to be formed as separate legal entities. In addition, state run agricultural companies had to return conveyed properties back to the cooperatives. According to this law, some of the basic cooperative organizations were separated from the state-run companies and were organized into cooperatives, however a large portion of their property remained in the ownership of the state-run company. Because a larger part of the cooperatives’ property was not returned under the 1990 law, a new law was enacted in 1996 to try to remedy this problem. However, only a small portion of the cooperatives’ property was returned under this law, due to the political environment, the overall inefficiency of the government and disrespect for property ownership issues. In Vojvodina, only 60,000 hectares of agricultural land was returned to the cooperatives, while more than 130,000 hectares of cooperative owned land remains in the state run companies. Such property that was never returned to its cooperative owners is now threatened by the privatisation of the state run companies.

    While the basic cooperative organizations were being transformed into cooperatives, in the early 90s the farmers themselves began to form new cooperatives and to thus see new possibilities to promote their economic interests. Agricultural cooperatives in this country most often do not enjoy a large degree of economic power, but they are necessary for the small to medium sized agricultural producers, who otherwise would most likely not be in the position to organize production and maintain a competitive market position. Cooperatives are also beneficial to the manufacturers, traders and consumers, as they are able to purchase from the cooperative in one central location as compared to negotiating with a multitude of individual producers.