Bata farm co-operative faces resistance to privatisation

Brandsby Agricultural Trading Association (Bata), a Yorkshire farming co-operative, has called for a vote among its members to change its current business structure.

The proposal is to convert Bata from a society to a private company limited by shares.

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However, some members have voiced concerns about the proposal and have launched a “vote no” campaign, with leaflets being dispersed in the local area to encourage farmer-owners to vote against the decision.

Bata was established more than 130 years ago and has about 4,000 members. It supplies a range of animal feeds, fuel and agricultural products and also operates a number of country stores.

Voting is limited to ordinary share members, and two special member meetings for voting are due to take place on 15 August and 8 September. Votes can also be sent by post or placed via an online portal.

Another meeting has been agreed for 10am on 4 August at the Mercure York, following demands from about 50 members of the co-op, to discuss the proposed change in structure in advance of the voting at the meeting on 15 August.


Former Bata chairman and farmer Charles Brader told Farmers Weekly he doesn’t believe the change in Bata’s business structure is the way forward.

Mr Brader said the current maximum shareholding is £20,000, so there can’t be a majority shareholder. But if it is changed to a private limited company, this would not be the case.

Concerns were also raised by Mr Brader about the proposed new board, as he feared it would change from a farmers’ co-operative to a management board, with little farmer representation.

Another member told Farmers Weekly there were a lot of the farmer-members who were not happy about it.

“We ultimately think it is being lined up to be sold off and it’s just another farmer-owned business which is going to disappear,” he said.

However, it is understood that limitations on the number of shares would be put in place by the organisation to stop any parties having a controlling interest, which would prevent this from being an issue.

Bata response

Farmers Weekly spoke to Bata chief executive Andrew Richardson about the proposed conversion. He said feedback from members has generally been very good so far.

It had taken more than two years to get to this stage, he said, and there had been a measured approach by the board to ensure a democratic process across all areas of the business.

Mr Richardson said: “We see a lot of volatility in the marketplace and it’s just aligning ourselves to make sure we are able to react if we have to in any particular way.

“It’s also about derisking for the future and having a little bit more agility than you get compared with where we are currently.”

The new structure will allow board members to be voted on and off by the membership and will still offer opportunities for farmers to join the board, according to Mr Richardson.


Bata is performing well financially and has shown improvements year on year.

The group had a turnover of £153m in the year to 30 September 2022, an increase of 28% on the previous financial year, according to its annual return.

It made a total comprehensive income for the year of £6.68m, up £3.14m on the year.

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