Understanding Spanish agri-food cooperatives: Empirical analysis from economic, financial and interorganizational perspective

Titulo: Doctorado en Administración y Dirección de Empresas. Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena.

Doctoranda: María del Carmen Martínez Victoria.

Fecha: Marzo 2017.

Directores: María Luz Maté Sánchez-Val y Narciso Arcas Lario.



Agri-food cooperatives develop a relevant socio-economic role for their members providing several services or improving their countervailing power on the market. Furthermore, they act as a vehicle in the rural development of the area in which they are located. They are closely linked to their environments, from a social, economic and geographical standpoint. Moreover, in a globalization context, cooperatives have adopted new collaboration alternatives in order to gain market power and improve their competitive standards. From an internal perspective, cooperatives face to several challenges due to their internal governance but they overcome their limitations through new strategies or new cooperative organizational models.

The purpose of this thesis is to evaluate the agri-food cooperatives' performance from financial, economic and inter-organizational perspectives. With this aim, we apply different methodologies examining diverse settings. We shed additional light on the understanding of cooperatives behavior in agri-food markets refining their weakness and boosting their strengths. In the light of the foregoing, the specific objectives of this dissertation are developed in three specific empirical applications. In the first analysis, we focus on the financial dimension of the cooperative comparing, from a dynamic perspective, the financial behavior for cooperatives and investor-owned firms. The second study examines the economic elements determining of agri-food cooperatives' productivity growth, giving special relevance to spatial factors: firms' location and interactions among peer companies. The third empirical analysis studies the role played by alliances between first- and second-level agri-food cooperatives on their productivity growth and their components.

This thesis contributes to the current literature in different aspects finding some promising results for the development of future research in this field. Our financial study determine that despite cooperatives operate under different management strategies from investor-owned firms, their financial behavior is similar among them with some differences caused by the particularities in cooperatives. From an economic analysis, we determine the relevance of the geographical location and interactions among neighboring companies in the productivity growth of agri-food companies.

Finally, this thesis also supports the impact generated between Spanish agri-food first and second-level cooperatives in their productivity standards. Previous findings are valuable contributions to be considered in the design of policies directed to improve the results in agri-food firms.