Chapter 7: To be or not to be a co-operative? The case of Australia's grain co-operatives CBH and ABB Grain
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This chapter examines the parallel histories of two of Australia's largest bulk grains handling co-operatives, Co-operative Bulk Handling (CBH) and the South Australian Co-operative Bulk Handling (SACBH), later named AusBulk and then ABB Grain Ltd. Both co-operatives provide an insight into the forces that shape a co-operative enterprise and provide lessons for why such businesses form and why they survive or disappear. The case demonstrates how co-operative enterprises respond to pressures from government regulation, external market competition and the internal forces of management and member desires for investment returns or continuing patronage. The chapter is organised into the following sections. It draws upon the conceptual framework of the co-operative enterprise business model outlined in Chapter 2 (see Figure 2.1) and Cook's (1995) 'co-operative life cycle theory'. First there is an overview of the two case study firms and the methodology used in the research. Then a brief history of the development of the Australian bulk grains industry is provided, followed by a historical examination of each co-operative through each of the five stages of the 'life cycle' framework. The chapter then examines the histories of the two co-operatives against the 'systems', 'enterprise' and 'member' level units of analysis outlined in the conceptual framework.

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