Análisis del oportunismo en el ámbito de las cooperativas agroalimentarias

Supervised by:
  1. Narciso Arcas Lario Director
  2. Miguel Hernández Espallardo Co-director

Defence university: Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena

Fecha de defensa: 29 November 2022

  1. Juan Francisco Juliá Igual Chair
  2. Francisco José Alcón Provencio Secretary
  3. Shayegheh Ashourizadeh Committee member

Type: Thesis


Sustainability has become a global concern. As a result, sustainable development is increasingly important in the political discussions and in the institutional, business, and academic areas. At the heart of this discussions, the agri-food sector is portrayed as key to guarantee sustainable development. This sector not only has to cover the population growing demand for food, but it also must promote healthy ecosystems and support the sustainable management of land, water, and natural resources. These requests result in rules and requirements for implementing sustainable practises that affect farmers’ ability to compete, especially of those of reduced size. Small size impedes access to information and weakens farmers’ negotiation stance, subjecting them to external opportunistic behaviours from larger partners in the agri-food supply chain (inputs suppliers, processing companies and distributors). In this setting, agri-food cooperatives are considered an available alternative for farmers to deal with external opportunism. Farmers adherence to a cooperative allow them to improve their position in supply chain exchanges. This assessment has been theoretically postulated in the literature. However, no empirical studies have demonstrated this postulate. This is precisely the first objective of this Thesis, which is addresses in Chapter 3. Moreover, cooperatives’ peculiar organizational form, in which members have a multidimensional character as owners, decision-makers, and suppliers, opens the door to conflicts of interest, promoting opportunistic behaviours within the cooperative (internal opportunism). In addition, these conflicts of interest can be favoured when cooperatives attempt to increase their size to improve their own, and their member farmers, competitiveness. Cooperatives may opt to incorporate new farmers or to integrate itself into a second-tier cooperative. In both cases the diversity of opinions, objectives and aims increase among members, favouring conflict of interest and consequently opportunism within the organisation. Internal opportunistic behaviours create incentive problems that adversely affect the cooperative’s operations, members’ disposition to invest in the cooperative, and ultimately, the cooperative competitiveness. Hence, curbing members’ opportunistic behaviours is a critical management concern. For this reason, it is crucial to know the antecedents that promote opportunism in order to design governance mechanisms to influence on them. This inspires the other two objectives of the Thesis. The second is addressed in Chapter 4. Here we try to analyse the factors that affect cooperative members’ opportunism (internal opportunism) by exploring differences between first-tier and second-tier cooperatives. Finally, the third is to check the effectiveness of different governance mechanisms on curbing the opportunism of cooperative’s members by evaluating possible differences according to the intensity of their use and the cooperative type in which they are implemented. This objective is addressed in Chapter 5. To address these three objectives, we use information extracted from two different surveys. One of them was addressed to farmers from the Region of Murcia who are members and non-members of cooperatives. It provides information about opportunism experienced by farmers in supplier-buyers exchanges. The 225 responses allow us to verify empirically, by using PSM (Propensity Score Matching) technique, that farmers’ membership to a cooperative reduces their vulnerability to external opportunism. The other survey was addressed to managing directors of first-tier cooperatives, who provided information about the membership opportunism and the governance mechanisms used to combat it. The obtained information from 249 responses is analysed in two models by using OLS (Ordinary Least Squares). Below we comment the main results. Regarding the analysis of the factors that affect cooperative members’ opportunism the results show, in the case of first-tier cooperatives, that environmental uncertainty, members’ heterogeneity, and the cooperative’s market orientation increase members’ opportunism. On the other side, members’ dependence on the cooperative, long-term orientation of the relationship, and members’ market orientation reduce opportunism. For second-tier cooperatives, the results reveal that cooperative’s market orientation increases members’ opportunism, while members’ market orientation reduces it. The analysis of the effect of governance mechanism on opportunism shows that not all the mechanisms are equally effective. Effective mechanisms for first‐tier cooperatives memberships should be employed with lower intensity, whereas those effective for second-tier cooperatives memberships need a higher intensity of employment. In first-tier cooperatives, monitoring and socialization are effective mechanism to reduce opportunism when they are used at low levels. Nevertheless, monitoring at high levels can even promote opportunism. In second-tier cooperatives, the intensive use of hostages in the form of members’ investments in specific assets, selection, and socialization can be effective to reduce members’ opportunism. The results of the Thesis are of interest from an academic point of view. First, they support the role played by agri-food cooperatives in reducing external opportunism experienced by farmers derived from sustainable development requirements and regulations. It is a current challenge for farmers in general, and for small-scale farmers in particular. This strength of cooperatives appears recurrently in the literature, but always in a theoretical manner. The Thesis makes an important contribution to the literature by supporting the theoretical postulate with empirical evidence. Second, regarding internal opportunism, previous literature has analysed both the antecedents of such behaviours and the existing governance mechanisms to counteracting them, but in the extended context of supplier-buyers’ relationships. Hence, the Thesis assists in contributing with empirical studies to analyse the opportunism issue in the setting of agri-food cooperatives. Specifically, the opportunism of cooperative members. Our results are also of interest from a managerial point of view. Regarding the results obtained about the cooperatives’ role in reducing external opportunism in the context of sustainable development requirements, they confirm that agri-food co-operatives, in addition to their direct contribution to sustainability, also contribute indirectly by helping their members to comply with sustainability rules and protecting them against opportunism that they may experience from external agents in the supply chain. This contributes to enhance the value of these organizations and can be useful for both, cooperatives’ managers to increase members loyalty and to attract new farmers to the cooperative, and cooperatives’ representative organisations to lobby the interests of cooperatives in Public Administration. On the other hand, about the analysis of internal opportunism (antecedents and governance mechanisms) the results obtained in this Thesis can help to properly manage opportunism. They allow cooperatives’ managers to know the factors that may affect their members opportunism. Also, the results show how different governance mechanisms affect opportunism, depending on the intensity of their use and the type of cooperative in which they are applied. This information is of help for managers to establish actions to combat opportunistic behaviours. Such actions should promote those factors that result in a reduction of opportunism and attempt to restrict those factors that promote it.