Transforming Our Agri-Food System: The Case Study of Homemakers Union Consumer Co-Op, Taiwan

Monday, 11 July 2016: 09:30
Location: Prominentenzimmer (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Pei-Hui TSAI, Shih Hsin University, Taiwan
Yu-Hua CHEN, National Taiwan University, Taiwan
Aware of the high levels of contamination in the soil and numerous scandals associated with imported food products, several NGOs have decided to take control by instituting a system of collective purchasing directly from local farmers. Among these NGOs, the Homemakers Union Consumer Co-op (HUCC) has played a critical role since the early 1990s. The HUCC emerged during a time where there was increasing interest in environmental issues and started to purchase rice and grapes from small farmers through a buying club. The buying club soon became the co-op, with 90 percent female members. Despite the lack of capital and asset, the group established a worker’s co-op, with twenty founding members each contributing about $600 USD as capital share. This was the group’s first capital raised to try out collective purchasing. To be able to buy at the co-op, anyone has to sign up and pay membership fee. Currently, they have about 10 million USD, all from volunteers’ investments. The co-op has expanded with about 400 employees and more than 60,000 members, and now works with about 150 local farmers. A growing number of outlets (47) in a network around Taiwan established by the co-op to provide environmentally friendly and healthy foods. The co-op also aims to lead consumers to a better understanding of how they can make a difference on the environment and agri-food system. The co-op depends on the bonds of trust with members. Following a series of food safety scandals in recent years, Taiwanese tend not to trust a government logo. But more people will trust certain marketing channels, and among them is the Homemakers Union Consumer Co-op. In this research, we will explore how the HUCC transform local agri-food system and create a reliable marketing channel by adding social innovation and strengthening social solidarity in Taiwan.