By John Burns

TRADITIONAL farmers co-ops came under attack at a Gearing Up For Change conference in Somerset this week.

“Most co-ops basically arent very good,” said consultant Robin Hobson of Laurence Gould Partnership.

“Grain co-ops tend to track each other – they dont seem to think they have to sell your grain for more than other co-ops get.”

One approach he used was to spread a farms tonnage over several co-ops and traders and encourage them by promising a bigger share of the crop next year to the one that secured the best returns.

Melvyn Askew of the Central Science Laboratory outlined many opportunities to add value to arable crops, warning that it would be essential for farmers to work together in those new ventures.

But such co-operation needs to extend along the entire production chain, he said.

Delegates, including Bill Vellacott from Devon, remained curious about how to achieve that production chain co-operation but made a plea that co-ops should be made to work together rather than trying to re-invent the wheel.