JA Multipurpose Co-operative and its Activities
JA (Japan Agricultural Co-operative) is organized in every prefecture and municipality throughout the country, based on the principle of mutual cooperation, with the purpose of protecting farming and living of its individual members. To this end, JAs are engaged in various activities including farm guidance, marketing of farm products, supplies of production inputs, credit and mutual insurance businesses, while they are referred to as "multi-purpose agricultural co-operatives".
Almost of the farmers in Japan join the respective JA as regular members, while non-farmers as associate members are increasingly affiliated with JAs to enjoy their services such as credit and mutual insurance.
Farm guidance is one of the JA's most important activities, which provides member farmers with guidance to improve their farm management and production technologies. Farm advisors of JAs offer such guidance particularly through producers' groups who are organized on commodity-wise basis. With a view to contributing to better farming of member farmers, these advisors promote many activities of farmers such as joint marketing of their agricultural products and joint purchases of production materials. Field technical guidance services are also offered to farmers by those advisors.
BETTER LIVING GUIDANCE
JA offers better living guidance to farmers and their family members. In many cases, JA's better living advisors organize JA women's associations consisting of house wives of farm families, through which, better living advisors promote activities of those associations such as health management for member families, house budgeting, reading sessions, recreation activities, trips, and joint purchases of high quality daily necessities.
JA's credit business is engaged in various banking activities including collection of savings, extension of loans, domestic and foreign exchange transactions, discounting of bills and government bonds transactions. The basic purpose of the JA's credit business is to contribute to better farming and living of member families by promoting saving and mutual financing among members. The credit business sector of the JA Group, referred to as the JA Bank, constitutes the largest private sector community-based financial institution in the country.
MUTUAL INSURANCE BUSINESS
JA's mutual insurance business is to offer to member families a system that protect the present and future well-being of member families, thereby guaranteeing their personal and financial security, as well as ensuring the stability of their farming and lives. JA employees called life advisers (LA), who have expert knowledge on life planning and mutual insurance, carry on sales promotion of various mutual insurance contracts to meet the diversified needs in members' life cycles. The JA's mutual insurance business also contributes to the JA's welfare activities for the elderly and local traffic safety campaigns.
JA's marketing activities of agricultural products produced by its member farmers plays an important role in increasing their farm income. In order to get better prices of these products in the market, JA promotes many joint activities of member farmers in marketing farm products mainly through joint grading and joint shipment of products, as well as in close contact with its better farming guidance promoted by co-operative farm advisors particularly on unified standards for agricultural production and livestock feeding. Most JAs are equipped with marketing facilities including joint grading centers of farm products, temperature-controlled warehouses and grain elevators. In recent years, an increasing number of JAs have also been operating farmers' markets so as to promote the campaign of "local production and local consumption."
JA's purchasing activities are intended to supply member farm families with production inputs such as fertilizers, chemicals and agricultural machinery, as well as with high quality daily necessities at lower prices. In many cases, such joint purchasing activities are implemented on the basis of advanced order systems, while ZEN-NOH, National Federation of Agricultural Co-operative Associations, collects these orders of farmers through its member JAs to bargain with respective companies for reducing their prices of commodities to be supplied to farmers. A number of JAs also manage A-COOP chain supermarkets and gas stations for member families and local people.
A number of JAs are engaged in diverse activities including processing business of agricultural products, promotion of members' house-renting business, and travel agency business. With a view to contributing to the respective local community, JAs are now increasingly implementing new activities such as welfare services for the elderly, assistance to operation of school orchards, supplies of foodstuffs to school lunch, and environmental protection. Furthermore, many JAs and their organizations have been participating in international cooperation activities.