Farming co-ops boost business in difficult year

Agricultural co-ops have grown their businesses in the past year, despite pressure on both the co-operative and farming sectors.

Co-operative UK’s annual report showed the 625 agricultural co-ops recorded revenues of £6.2bn in their most recent financial year – slightly more than in the 2014 report.

Farmer-owned businesses have now boosted revenues by almost one-third since 2010.

Seven agricultural co-ops made it into the top 20 list for 2015.

See also: UK lags way behind Europe in farmer collaboration

Grain co-op Openfield was the highest placed at number seven, while First Milk, Fane Valley and United Dairy Farmers were also in the higher group.

Co-operative’s UK secretary-general Ed Mayo said the growth of the businesses showed the ownership model was relevant and important in today’s economy.

“Turnover growth of £1.4bn over a five-year period is testament to the role agricultural co-operatives play in purchasing and marketing – boosting productivity and cutting costs for members,” he said.

“The sector requires more consistent support, from expert co-operative governance advice to lobbying government. But the building blocks are in place to see further impressive growth in future years.”

The annual report showed there were 6,796 co-ops in the UK, with revenue totalling £37bn.

Agriculture was the second biggest part of the sector behind retail, which contains giants such as the John Lewis Partnership.

The whole movement has been challenged this year after the struggles of the Co-operative Group, which has had to cut its stake in the Co-operative Bank.

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