【Beat Covid-19!】 Japanese Cooperatives’ Efforts to Combat Covid-19 (Summary Report)
We would like to express our heartfelt condolences to those who have been affected by Covid-19. We would also like to express our heartfelt respect for those who are working hard day and night to protect people’s health and livelihood, especially for those who are engaged in medical and welfare services.
Strengthening their own infection control measures, local cooperatives have been supporting local livelihoods and economies, with many of them engaged in food production and supply and many of them providing medical and welfare services.
National organizations of cooperatives have set up task forces to combat Covid-19 and been working in cooperation with prefectural and local cooperatives.
The following is a quick summary of those efforts, based on information provided by national cooperative organizations of various sectors that are members of the JCA.
- Agricultural Cooperatives (JAs)
– Local JAs are taking the necessary measures based on their BCPs (Business Continuity Plans), etc., in accordance with the government’s Basic Response Policy and the response policies of their prefectures. In particular, they have been continuing the businesses that fall under the category of “business requested to be continued” in the governmental policies, such as: medical service, credit business, kyosai (cooperative insurance) business, supply of production materials and feed necessary for the continuation of agriculture, collection and shipment of agricultural products, supply of food and fuel necessary for daily life, nursing care, funeral service, etc.
– The JA Group has been working with local governments to expand consumption of domestic agricultural products in the face of declining demand for agricultural products due to a decline in tourists and the cancellation of school lunches, etc. Many JA farmers markets have launched sales campaigns to support producers and traders who have lost their opportunities to ship agricultural products. Some JA women’s associations have made cloth masks and donated them to local facilities.
– In late February, JA Zenchu (the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives) conducted an emergency survey for JAs and federations nationwide. They summarized the impact on agriculture, rural areas, and JA and made necessary requests to the government.
– The Ie-no-Hikari Association, a publishing association established by JAs, has created videos of handicrafts for children staying home（about 10 videos, each about 3 minutes long),a video of how to make masks, and ones of recipes for drinks using milk, whose consumption has declined due to school shutdown. The videos are posted on YouTube.
- Consumer Cooperatives
– Consumer cooperatives has seen a surge in demand at home delivery and stores due to the increase in the number of people at home, and has seen a very high number of applications to join and restart their purchase. While taking measures against infectious diseases, they are working hard to secure and deliver food, hygiene products and other daily necessities to members in order to support their livelihoods. At their stores, they make sure that there are intervals in lines at the cash registers and they also set up a time slot for the elderly and others.
– A consumer cooperative in Hokkaido, in cooperation with the JA Group, provided free milk through meal distribution services and mobile sales. In response to the decrease in milk consumption due to the suspension of school lunches, many consumer cooperatives have been taking initiatives to encourage milk consumption. Consumer cooperatives that operate or support food banks and children’s cafeterias have been delivering food to children and livelihood support facilities.
– The Japanese Consumers’ Co-operative Union (JCCU) conducted a survey for members to clarify the impact of Covid-19 on their lives and purchases a survey for members to clarify the impact of Covid-19 on their lives and purchases (valid responses: 6,349 members of 10 consumer cooperatives nationwide).
– The National Union of University Co-operative Associations held an “Emergency survey for undergraduate and graduate students” and released a preliminary result, which included students’ comments such as, “I can’t get a part-time job and have a lot of financial worries”.
- Cooperatives in the Health and Welfare Field
– The National Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives (JAs) for Health and Welfare has set up an emergency task force and have been collecting information from their member prefectural federations, communicating with other national federations of JAs and the government, and securing necessary supplies. 33 out of the 105 hospitals run by prefectural federations are “Medical Institutions Designated for Infectious Diseases” and have been taking necessary measures based on requests from the national and local governments. On March 10, they submitted an urgent request to the Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare for a stable supply of medical masks, disinfectants and protective equipment for infection, etc., and for the protection of health care workers and their families from prejudice and slander.
– Health and welfare consumer cooperatives also have been making their best efforts to combat Covid-19. Their staff people are extremely exhausted in a shortage of masks, protective clothing and other necessary materials. They are in a very difficult financial situation due to an increase in expenditures for infection prevention measures, as well as a decrease in income caused by people’s withholding or postponing visits for consultations and medical examinations. In light of this situation, on April 27, the President of the Japan Federation of Medical and Welfare Co-operatives (HeW Co-op Japan) made a statement entitled “Let’s mobilize ‘the power of cooperation’ of medical and welfare co-ops to overcome the various difficulties brought about by Covid-19!” and submitted a letter of request to the government. Against this backdrop, members of medical and welfare co-ops handcraft masks and face guards to deliver them to nursing facilities, while encouraging medical workers.
- Cooperatives in the Finance Field
– The Norinchukin Bank, JA Bank (the credit business sector of the JA Group), JF Marine Bank (that of the Fisheries Cooperative Group) and Rokin Banks are providing low-interest loans and consultations on loans and repayments in order to support the lives of their members and the local economy.
– The Norinchukin Bank, JA Bank, and JF Marine Bank have established an emergency fund to combat Covid-19 for low-interest loans, reduced guarantee fees, etc.
– Rokin Banks on April 20 started “special unsecured loans to support the livelihood of workers affected by Covid-19”. On April 30, they started accepting applications for “special emergency small loans based on the situation caused by Covid-19 under the livelihood welfare fund system” made by the Councils of Social Welfare.
- Kyosai (Cooperative Insurance)
– JA Kyosai, Kokumin Kyosai co-op, Co-op Kyosai and others continue to perform their important tasks such as payment of coinsurance, contract administration, and deal with members, in order to protect members and policyholders. In addition, they are expanding the scope of mutual aid payments, providing special measures for payment of premiums and providing special loans.
– In light of the social anxiety caused by the spread of the infection, Kokumin Kyosai co-op has set up a special page on the Web called “What you can do now for cooperation” on May 11 to “promote the creation of a society of cooperation by sending out messages of help and co-creation to members and society” and has been sending out information and communication mainly on the Web and social media.
– In March, the National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations (JF-Zengyoren) compiled a request for economic measures and support for production activities in response to the drastic decrease in demand and fall in fish prices caused by Covid-19, which has dealt a major blow to the financial situation of fishermen and fisheries cooperatives.
– On March 6, the Japan Workers Cooperative Union (JWCU) issued an emergency statement in response to the spread of Covid-19, stating, “We make our views clear, express our requests to the government and administration, and express our thoughts on building local communities and a society based on ‘cooperation and symbiosis’, being empowered by the expected enactment of the Workers’ Cooperative Law”.
(posted on 18 May 2020 in Japanese)