The development path of agricultural cooperatives in Vojvodina was rather complex, marked with ups and downs. Since its inception, the cooperative movement in Vojvodina has existed in various socio-political systems which were changing through history, significantly marking operating conditions for cooperatives and farmers. The first cooperative in the area of today’s Vojvodina was established in 1846 in BačkiPetrovac, under the nameGazdovsky spolok. This cooperative is the third cooperative in the world, marking Vojvodina as one of the regions with the longest tradition of cooperatives on the planet. After the establishment of the first cooperative in Bački Petrovac, many cooperatives were founded throughout Vojvodina. First cooperatives in Vojvodina were founded as credit cooperatives, agricultural – credit or agricultural cooperatives. At the same time, cooperatives in the field of craftsmanship were established.

Cooperative movement on the teritory of Vojvodina and the developed European countries were developing simultaniously until the first decades of the XX century. Until 1937, cooperatives from Vojvodina were operating under Austro-Hungarian legislation, which did not limit the members of cooperatives from pursuing economic interests through cooperative organization. During the WWII, the economic crisis and war destruction most cooperatives and unions ceased their operations. From the end of WWII to 1980s, the cooperative movement was directly influenced by the state, which contributed to distancing from operating according to cooperative principles. Due to the application of regulations on associated work and other laws, in the early 1970s agricultural cooperatives were merged with socially-owned agricultural enterprises in which they usually had the status of the so-called basic organizations of cooperants, thus losing their independence. In the process of merging, the property of cooperatives was also transferred to enterprises, which would later turn out to be irreparable damage to the entire cooperative movement, because to this day a large part of that property has not been returned to cooperatives after their separation from enterprises.
By amendments to the Constituion of the SFR Yugoslavia from 1988 cooperative property was established as an equal form of possession. In 1990 The Law on Cooperatives was adopted which enabled the formation of coopeartives as independent legal person. Moreover, it was perscribed that the property of earlier cooperatives transferred to agricultural enterprises and combines should be returned to cooperatives. Under the provisions of this Law, a part of the basic organisations of cooperants seceded from the enterprises and was united in cooperatives, leaving the majority of the property to the enterprises. The issues of restitution of cooperative property was regulated also with the Law on Cooperatives which was adopted in 1996. However, in Vojvodina only 70 000 ha of agricultural land was restored to cooperatives, while more than 130 000 ha the cooperatives had before merging, were left to the enterprises. Paralelly to the transformation of the basic organizations of cooperants into cooperatives, as of the beginning of 1990s new cooperatives were being created on the part of farmers which saw the cooperative organisation as a means of achieving its economic goals. By the late 1990s, despite the issues related to the problems regarding the restitution of the cooperative property, the inability of distribution of social property in cooperatives and other challanges brought on by transition and market economy, developed and stable cooperative sector was established, based on cooperative principles and values.


Since the beginning of the XXI c. until today, cooperative movement in Vojvodina has been on the path of development, creating better working conditions for its members and cooperants on the demanding market. More than 400 active agricultural cooperatives in Vojvodina provide jobs and services in agriculture for over 100 000 people. Members of cooperatives, cooperants and employees in coopeartives mostly live and work in rural areas, hence besides the contribution of cooperatives in improving their economic positions, cooperatives also play an important role in preserving their lives and work in the country, as well as contribute to the improvement of social ambiance in rural areas. The main activities of agricultural cooperatives are related to contracting production with cooperants which include the procurement of intermediate goods, various services, storing of goods and joint sale of their products. Apart from contracting production, a large number of cooperatives has its own production. Successful cooperatives have storage capacities, modern mechanization, and a few even have processing facilities, which influence the amelioration of cooperatives and cooperants’ economic position on the market.
The majority of agricultural cooperatives in Vojvodina are of general type, i.e. they are not specialised, which is highly conditioned by the structure of production among the members of cooperatives and cooperants, mainly happening withing the frame of classic field crops. However, in the last few years investments in more intensive types of production have increased, especially in the field of fruit and vegetable growing in comparison to traditional field crops, and more and more specialized cooperatives are being established in these areas.

Cooperatives with more than a decade long tradition make the basis of the cooperative movement in Vojvodina and together they have the largest cooperative facilities in the Province. About 150 cooperatives, mostly active to this day have a long history dating back to 1950s and 1960s, and some of them have a tradition over a century long, which is a proof of the need of the cooperative organisation in agriculture, but also a proof of adaptability of this type of business organisation of farmers in different socio-economic systems. Cooperatives with a long tradition had the most problems during the transition period, which demanded adaptability to the market conditions, with many of them retrieving cooperative property from socially-owned enterprises. The cooperatives that managed to return their property could not manage it while being socially – owned, and as they did not have the conditions to transfer the property into cooperative one, their market position was obstructed.

Since the 1990s a couple hundreds completely new cooperatives have been founded in Vojvodina, by farmers who have had a vision of improving their economic and social position through joint cooperative business. From the group of cooperatives established in the last two decades, a few dozen made a remarkable progress in their business, and represent respectable examples. As of January 7th, 2016 the cooperative sector has been applying a new, modern and apt Law on Cooperatives. This law finally provides a means of transferring social into cooperative property, and cooperatives finally have a way to manage their property upon being registered as cooperative property. On the other hand, legal provisions on establishing new cooperatives are liberal and encouraging for cooperative organisation. Since the application of the Law a new era for the cooperative movement has begun. Cooperatives have finally become equal to other legal and natural persons, not only in the sense of being able to manage their property, but also in the possibility to apply for different incentives and subsidies in agriculture and other fields, which was not possible in the past. One of the results stemming from the amelioration of the cooperative position in economic system is the growth of investments in cooperative sector, which in the last three years has been supported by incentives implemented solely for cooperatives – which is a great proof of the acknowledgment of cooperatives’ significance and role.


Distinctiveness of cooperatives in comparison to other types of business organisation is in the cooperative identity with which the future members of cooperatives should familiarise, and then do business according to it.
The identity of a modern cooperative, according to International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) is defined by the following: the definition of a cooperative, cooperative values and cooperative principles. The definition of cooperativesadopted bythe International Cooperative Alliance at a congress in Manchester in 1995 reads: The cooperative is autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.

Cooperative values represent the basic value systems of cooperative movement on which every cooperative is based. The values are: self-help, democracy, equality, equity, solidarity and self-responsibility. Members of cooperatives also respect ethical values such as honesty, social responsibility and concern for other people.

The development and operations of cooperative organization from their establishment to today have been followed by the development of cooperative principles as managing principles first applied in the cooperative of Rochdale weavers, and afterwards defined by International Cooperative Alliance. Cooperative principles represent the guidelines by which cooperatives practically apply cooperative values. At the ICA congress in Manchester in 1995, for the third and the last time, seven cooperative principles were redefined, in accordance with the developments in the global economy and society in general.

Cooperative principles:

• Voluntary and Open Membership
• Democratic Member Control
• Member Economic Participation
• Autonomy and Independence
• Education, Training, and Information
• Cooperation among Cooperatives
• Concern for Community