Chapter 11: Losing sight of purpose - the United Farmers Co-operative Company
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A few passionate and determined farmers got together in the early 1990s and created United Farmers Co-operative Company (UFCC) in an effort to fight off the oligopolistic fertiliser market in Western Australia. UFCC grew exponentially for a decade but faced a number of challenges leading to a sharp decline and eventually a merger into a larger, New Zealand fertiliser co-operative in 2008. Despite its short history, UFCC has had a lasting impact on the structure of the fertiliser market in WA, delivering a significant benefit to West Australian farmers in the last two decades and possibly for generations to come. This chapter will explore the reasons that led to the demise of UFCC. Was it the nature of the business model, was it the governance processes, or was it the competitive market environment? Our investigation will be based on evidence gathered through a series of interviews with past board members and managers, as well as data collected from secondary sources including annual reports, published histories and internal company documents. Our findings will be discussed against the literature on business models, the life cycle theory (Cook 1995) and the co-operative enterprise research framework introduced in Chapter 2, as well as literature on co-operative governance practices (Mazzarol, Simmons and Mamouni Limnios 2011).

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