New study explores challenges facing Europe’s largest agricultural co-operatives

The top 100, which lists the largest co-operatives by turnover, includes 30 French co-ops and 17 German co-ops

European agricultural co-operatives had a joint turnover of €237bn in 2019, according to a new study by consultant Olivier Frey.

The paper examines the financial performance of the 100 largest agricultural co-operatives in Europe, as well as their contributions in terms of employment, sustainable development and the fight against climate change.

Mr Frey holds a PhD in economics and has studying co-operative businesses, particularly agricultural co-operatives, since 2004. His paper highlights the significant role agricultural co-operatives play in the European agricultural and agri-food sectors.

The top 100, which lists the largest co-operatives by turnover, includes 30 French co-ops and 17 German co-ops. While France has more co-ops in the top 100, Germany is home to the Europe’s largest agricultural co-operative, Baywa, which has a turnover of €17bn (£15.41bn), almost three times the turnover of France’s largest cooperative, Agrial.

The paper also explores the trading patterns of different co-ops, such as co-ops in northern Europe, which focus on exporting products. According to the research, in 2019 Danish Crown made almost 90% of its turnover abroad, with Arla Foods (Denmark) and Friesland Campina (The Netherlands) achieving 75-80% of their turnover abroad. French and German co-operatives have a larger domestic market share, and as a result, are less export-oriented.

The study also looks at the evolution of the turnover of the European top 100 co-operatives over a five-year period – 2014-2019. In addition to the top 100 based on sales revenue, the paper includes top 100 rankings based on net margin, operating margin and the share of international sales revenue.

The research includes a country-by-country analysis of agricultural co-operatives in nine European countries (Germany, Spain, Italy, the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and France), exploring the legal characteristics of cooperatives in each of these countries.

The report is available in English and French and can be ordered online or by contacting Olivier Frey at [email protected]. Those ordering the study can also access a series of online interactive graphics and maps.

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