THREE QUARTERS of Welsh farmers acknowledge the benefits of joining co-operatives but most are wary of greater collaboration with other producers.

The results of a survey conducted at the 2004 Welsh Winter Fair have been published which indicate widespread doubt about whether the majority of farmers are willing to work together.

It also highlighted concerns about the principle of farmers spending their money on running a co-operative.

The Welsh Meat Company survey also revealed that 50% of those questioned were reluctant to being tied into long-term contracts.

But 75% said there were clear benefits including greater down market control of what they produced, better prices and the potential of having more market place clout.

“The majority of farmers are agreed on one thing, that co-operation is the best way for them to improve their businesses,” said Nicola Raymond Evans, general manager of the livestock co-operative.

“The problem is how to encourage farmers to put their money where their mouth is. They know that they should co-operate, but still hold back from making the commitment.”

It was important to address the issues that stopped farmers taking the plunge and working together to achieve the higher prices that could boost profitability.

She added that CAP reform meant that producers would have to get their income from the market place, which made the debate on co-operation even more important.

“They have to produce what the market wants, and co-operatives are a way to do that.

“Members of the Welsh Meat Company have a guaranteed market and enjoy a price premium for producing a branded product – Celtic Pride.

“By joining a co-op farmers can leave marketing to the experts and get on with what they do best, producing quality beef and lamb,” she insisted.

Hybu Cig Cymru, the body responsible for red meat promotion in Wales, will shortly announce a deal that will result in the use of Welsh meat in hospitals in north Wales.