Agri co-ops must be innovative and follow customer trends, heard a business forum

Agricultural co-ops are ‘crucial’ for farmers to innovate, add value to produce and follow consumer trends, a European co-operative has said at a business forum.

Copa & Cogeca, the body for agricultural co-ops and farmers, has urged EU Commission to improve competitiveness and to introduce EU legislation to fight unfair trading practices (UTPs) in food chain to improve farmers’ position in the food supply chain and to step up on competitiveness.

It added that the need for co-operatives to be innovative is more important than ever.

Thomas Magnusson, president of Cogeca, said at the forum: “We face many challenges today ranging from climate change, volatile markets, increasing consumer demands, investment in new products, producing more with less to meet growing food demand.

“To meet these, it’s more important than ever for the co-operative to add value to their products to respond to consumers demands. New, innovative products that respond to short and long term consumer trends need to be developed in order to penetrate the market. It’s also important to find new export markets for quality produce.”

Various agricultural co-ops underlined the need to position and differentiate the product in the market, with a lot of attention on innovative packaging, labelling, branding, quality and good production standards.

Meurig Raymond, Copa representative and president of the NFU, said: “Unfair trading practices impact negatively on farmers who are at the bottom of the supply chain, being squeezed by some operators in the retail sector. They are price takers who have no one to fall back on, causing severe cash flow problems for many of them.”