CONTRACTS IN CO-OPERATIVE HORTICULTURAL MARKETING
In the time which has elapsed since co-operation first started it has extended itself to many parts of the world, to the near countries and to those more distant, to the relatively under-developed and to those in an advanced stage of development. By some it is regarded as the panacea for all agricultural and social ills. Britain was perhaps the first in this field - but this is no credit to us since it developed here largely as a result of some of the worst social ills generated by our industrial revolution and you will know that we happened to have an industrial revolution rather earlier than most other European countries.
In the century since co-operation first started, one of its features seems to me to have come full circle. What co-operation was once designed to avoid or to circumvent it now begins to impose. It is this aspect on which I want to talk to you this afternoon.
Co-operation, in the United Kingdom at least, sprang from the need for freedom of action in buying and selling, a freedom of action which was hampered by the retail trading conditions of the middle of the last century. Put in economic terms co-operation sprang from the need of both consumers and agriculturalists to avoid some of the worst effects of imperfect competition in the supply of foodstuffs at retail and the products. It seems to me that in this agricultural sector of co-operation, and in this I include horticulture, that by the very use of the now popular device of a legal contract between a producer and a co-operative society that we have come around to restricting competition in a field where competition would be extremely desirable and in the best interests of those in the agricultural sector. Just how this has come about and the manner in which a contract avoids the development of useful competition is the theme of my contribution to you.
The point at which the idea of a legal contract in co-operative horticultural marketing first appeared was in the report of the Committee on Horticultural Marketing which was issued in 1957. This committee was