Scotland’s 70 farmer co-ops have increased their throughput over recent years by around 15 per cent annually— 2012 saw this reach over £3 billion.
“We’re in a period of strong, sustained growth and we expect this above-trend growth to continue for the foreseeable future,” explains James Graham, Chief Executive of the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society. SAOS is owned by the co-ops and provides specialist co-op development and advice services across the farming and food industry in Scotland.
James continues: “It’s not difficult to understand why family farmers should work together. Most farm businesses are small relative to others in their value chain. Joining forces makes perfect sense — to save costs, to secure customers and grow, to share investment and add value, to manage risks, and diversify into new opportunities.
“But most important, we believe farmers can help preserve their independence by co-operating to secure gains that are not available when they act individually. Co-operation is a key to sustaining vibrant rural communities that are self-reliant and enterprising.”
Many of Scotland’s farmers agree. Adam Marshall, a member of Borders Machinery Ring says: “For me, it’s a no-brainer really. Through the Ring, members can offer their machinery for use year-round to other members and earn more income, and they can find extra labour to help out at peak times, and all without having to go through the stress of organising it themselves. The Ring makes life much simpler and leaves us more time to get on with our farming.”
Mark McCallum, his father, John, and son, Cameron, grow high quality malting barley and are members of Highland Grain. Mark agrees that the benefits of co-operation make great sense for farmers: “My grandfather was a founder member of one of the two groups that merged to create Highland Grain.
“What made sense to those guys is even more relevant in today’s marketplace: working together means that we have greater power than we could ever have as individuals. I’d say the most important aspect for growers is that the co-op provides us with much more security than we’d have on our own.”
For more details, visit: www.saos.coop