Further collaboration in farming is "key to ensuring sector success post-Brexit."
The Co-operative Economy 2018 report reveals that turnover from agricultural co-operatives has increased by 5% to £7.7bn. The uplift in revenue echoes the trend across the wider co-operative movement, with turnover up more than £800 million to £36.1bn a year. Agriculture represents over 20% of total turnover in the co-op economy.
Richard Self, Co-operatives UK Agricultural Manager, said: "This growth is testimony to the resilience of our farming co-operatives - and has been achieved despite ongoing uncertainty in the run-up to Brexit. However, at a time when we need more co-operation and collaboration in agriculture in readiness for leaving the EU, the number of agricultural co-operatives is, in fact, declining.
"Collaboration within the agricultural supply chain and across co-operative memberships will be key to ensuring sector success post-Brexit.” Richard Hampton, OMSCo Managing Diurector
"Defra has recognised that the UK is significantly out of step with its international competitors and has indicated its support for more collaboration in the sector. But Defra must ensure the funds it announces are accessible and support the right initiatives in order to help change perceptions and encourage co-operation."
The need for further collaboration in the UK's farming sector is echoed by Co-operatives UK member the Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative (OMSCo), the largest organic dairy co-operative in the UK and Europe.
Nearly 25 years old, OMSCo has provided a stable and sustainable return to its members by pursuing a market and product business diversification strategy. OMSCo Managing Director, Richard Hampton, said: "A focus on long-term, strategic partnerships with like-minded businesses globally has helped us develop supply chains overseas and access international markets."
Established by five innovative farmers back in 1994, you can read all about how OMSCo developed into the largest organic dairy co-operative in the UK here.
This approach has led to OMSCo forming relationships with US-based Organic Valley, the largest organic co-operative in the world, leading European organic dairy co-operative, Eko Holland, and long-term partner and renowned dairy processor Wyke Farms, with whom they formed the ‘The British Organic Dairy Company’ joint venture in 2017.
Richard said: "Although OMSCo’s core business is in the UK, added-value initiatives not only help us to balance fluctuations in UK organic milk supply and demand, but also to build resilience as a business."
For the financial year-ending March 2017, exports accounted for 21% of OMSCo’s turnover. However, Richard explains that there are hurdles to overcome as Brexit draws closer and brings with it potential barriers to trade.
He said: “The figures from this year’s economy report are reflective of the current market conditions and the challenges that lie ahead. Collaboration within the agricultural supply chain and across co-operative memberships will be key to ensuring sector success post-Brexit.”