By FWi staff

FARMER co-ops are being urged to expand or amalgamate if they are to match the rapid growth of companies further down the food chain.

Norman Coward, president of Group Cereals Services, told members of Suffolk-based Framlingham Farmers co-op that farmer-controlled businesses need greater scale of operation.

“Those that sell co-operatively, particularly grain and milk, must recognise the huge amalgamation that is going on among those who buy their members products.

“It is alarming to see the extent to which these businesses are coming together,” said Mr Coward.

He believes that co-ops have not been as good as individual farmers in adapting to this new, tougher environment.

“Theres more to be done, and basically this involves increasing size. Co-ops could work together better than they do in marketing grain and milk,” he said.

“For example, flour millers are getting bigger and there are opportunities to supply them with large quantities of milling wheat.

“But to do this, size is important to amass the required volume of grain.”

Farmer-controlled businesses really need to define their “sacred cows” and must not let factors such as differences in capital or geography obstruct their goals, he added.

“And this is to concentrate on the net price coming back to the farmer for his grain or milk products,” adds Mr Coward.