Co-operatives UK has welcomed the announcement of a new multi-million pound fund to support co-operation between farmers as they prepare for business outside the European Union.
The new fund, of up to £10 million, was announced by farming minister George Eustice on Friday (16 February 2018). The fund will be co-designed with farmer co-ops and industry bodies including Co-operatives UK. It is intended to support new forms of farmer co-operation, as well as the development of existing co-ops.
"We want to see this fund being used to develop the scope, scale and impact of farmer co-operation, so that when it comes to innovation, sustainability, resilience and commercial savvy, British farmers can lead the world." Richard Self, Food and Farming Manager, Co-operatives UK
Over the last year, Co-operatives UK - the trade body dedicated to promoting, developing and uniting the nation's co-operatives - has been working hard to ensure that Defra officials and ministers understand how forming co-operatives helps farmers invest in new technology, achieve economies of scale, mitigate market volatility and earn a fairer price for their produce. Co-operatives UK and its farmer members held talks with Defra officials and George Eustice on numerous occasions to make this case.
Richard Self, Food and Farming Manager at Co-operatives UK, said: "This fund is the fruit of the close work we've done with Defra since the EU referendum and signals government's intent to help farmers strengthen their businesses through co-operation. The farming industry is set for big changes over the coming years and this initiative is much needed, not only because of Brexit, but because there is a need for new and existing co-operatives to help farmers to compete and become more productive.
"We want to see this fund being used to develop the scope, scale and impact of farmer co-operation, so that when it comes to innovation, sustainability, resilience and commercial savvy, British farmers can lead the world."
Co-operatives UK members who played a major role in discussions with Defra officials and ministers include: Anglia Farmers; Arla Food UK; Berry Garden Growers; British Growers Association; Camgrain; English Mustard Growers; First Milk; Fram Farmers; G's Growers; Meadow Quality; SAOS; The Green Pea Company; and Woldmarsh
Farming Minister George Eustice said: "This package of measures is designed to improve transparency and integrity within the food supply chain and to support collaborative business models where producers can come together to strengthen their position or work jointly on specific areas of work.
"Too often in the past, farmers have ended up being price takers and there have been too many instances where a lack of transparency in prices and charges by some processors has undermined the market. If we want a successful farming industry in the future then it is essential that we have properly functioning markets and that farmers receive a fair share of the value of the food they produce.”
The next step will see Co-operatives UK and other industry bodies working with Defra to shape how the fund will operate.