Ministers announce £10m fund to help farmers develop co-ops

The move was welcomed by Co-operatives UK which says collaborative working will help farmers adapt after Brexit

The government has announced a £10m fund for new forms of farmer co-operation, as well as the development of existing farm co-ops.

The fund is part of a series of measures to help farmers and small producers compete and thrive alongside larger businesses in the food supply chain, say ministers.

“These groups will be supported by the funding to formally establish, develop or expand, so that farmers and growers can take advantage of new market opportunities to help their businesses thrive,” said a government statement.

“Collaboration between farmers can bring substantial economic benefits, enabling farmers to benefit from economies of scale, share knowledge and jointly market their produce.”

Other measures include:

  • Introducing compulsory milk contracts between producers and purchasers to help protect dairy farmers by setting out clear terms, including the price for the delivery of milk, the timing of deliveries, and the duration of the contract
  • A requirement that slaughterhouses use a standard grid for the classification of sheep carcasses to help ensure farmers are paid per carcass in a more transparent manner
  • A commitment to work with industry to explore improving transparency and access to prices along the supply chain, to help farmers and small producers see if they are getting a fair deal for their produce.

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.”

Richard Self, food and farming manager at sector body Co-operatives UK, welcomed the announcement, and said: “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 said it has has been working with the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) to show ministers and officials co-operation helps farmers invest in new technology, achieve economies of scale, mitigate market volatility and earn a fairer price.

Mr Self added: “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 involved in the talks with Defra 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.

The next step will see Co-operatives UK and other industry bodies working with Defra to shape how the fund will operate.

 

 

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