Agri co-operatives plan to drive the bioeconomy revolution in Europe

According to Copa and Cogeca, agri-food and forestry co-operatives are showing clear leadership in this ‘silent revolution’

Agri co-ops presented best practices or the effective integration of primary producers in the bioeconomy value chains during a workshop in Brussels last month.

Supporting the bioeconomy is a key objective of the European Commission’s proposed Common Agricultural Policy post-2020 (CAP).

Released in October 2018, the post-2020 CAP legislative proposal suggests allocating €10bn (£8.97bn) from the EU’s Horizon Europe research programme for research and innovation projects in food, agriculture, rural development and bioeconomy.

According to the EC’s Joint Research Centre, the bioeconomy employs 18 million people across the EU. The EC argues the bioeconomy, which covers all economic activity derived from scientific and research activity focused on biotechnology, has the potential to generate one million new green jobs by 2030.

Organised by the EC’s Directorate-General for agriculture and rural development, the workshop aimed to explore the key drivers and potential of co-operative structures for primary producers in streamlining the bioeconomy. Participants also looked to identify ways of promoting co-operation in the bioeconomy, specifically in EU countries where co-operation is still under-developed.

Ten businesses producing fruit and vegetable, livestock, wine, forest and industrial hemp shared their experience during the workshop, while exploring adaptation to climate change and decarbonisation.

Copa and Cogeca, which represents European farmers and agri co-ops, says agri-food and forestry co-operatives are showing clear leadership in this ‘silent revolution’. During the workshop, Copa and Cogeca highlighted how co-operatives support primary producers to contribute to bioeconomy value chain and benefit from these innovative and circular strategies.

It also pointed out that supporting and helping to develop co-ops of various sizes, particularly in Central and East European countries, was critical to achieving the bioeconomy revolution.

These countries are already working together through the Central-Eastern European Initiative for Knowledge-based Agriculture, Aquaculture and Forestry in the Bioeconomy (BIOEAST).

Related: Agri co-ops respond to the eco challenges of the 21st century

In October 2018 the EC put forward a new Bioeconomy Strategy to accelerate the establishment of a sustainable European bioeconomy. The action plan seeks to improve and scale up the sustainable use of renewable resources to address global and local challenges such as climate change and sustainable development. As part if this, the EC proposes establishing a €100m (£89.67m) Circular Bioeconomy Thematic Investment Platform to bring bio-based innovations closer to the market, de-risk private investments in sustainable solutions, and facilitate the development of new sustainable bio-refineries across Europe.

The outcome of the workshop will serve as a basis for future activities on promoting the development of the bioeconomy, feeding into the preparation of the future CAP Strategic Plans in order to guarantee an effective support for the deployment of bioeconomy projects.

Copa and Cogeca argues that sharing knowledge and best practices could help member states and future beneficiaries to propose dedicated measures in order to further develop the bioeconomy in their countries.

Pekka Pesonen, Copa and Cogeca secretary general, said: “European agricultural and forest co-operatives have demonstrated how to be innovative, create additional revenue streams and set course towards a resource-efficient and sustainable economy.

“By reconciling demands for sustainable agriculture, food security, and the sustainable use of renewable biological resources, with calibrated support and policy coherence, co-operatives can successfully contribute to public policy objectives, such as improvement of farmers’ standards of living, the development of human capital, the enhancement of competitiveness, and sustainability.”