End of the Year Review 2016: Agriculture


February: Dairy co-op restructures following sale at Dairy Crest

Farmer co-op and dairy producer organisation Dairy Crest Direct (DCD) reorganised after Dairy Crest’s sale of its dairies business to Müller. Direct Milk DPO represents 660 farmers supplying more than a billion litres a year via standard liquid, liquid formula, organic and the aligned contracts for M&S, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.

March: First Milk co-operative reshapes its capital structure

The largest dairy farmer co-operative in the UK, First Milk, announced plans to change the capital structure of the business. The initiative was part of First Milk’s turnaround plan to stabilise the enterprise. The change saw First Milk converting its members’ loan capital into equity. This means that the money required to run the business which was raised from loans will be raised from equity capital instead, creating tradable shares.


February: UK’s largest grain co-op announces £6.6m turnaround in profits

The UK’s largest farmer-owned grain co-op Openfield Group announced a return to profit, with a £6.6m turnaround in fortunes. The group reported profits before tax of £2.4m for the year to 30 June 2015, after a loss of £4.2m in 2014.

April: UK grain co-op extends deal with Warburtons

One of the UK’s largest co-operatives extended its relationship with Warburtons bakers for five years. Openfield is a grain supplier based in Lincolnshire. It is owned by 2,700 farmers who commit grain to the business, and works with over 4,000 others.


July: Co-op Group scheme to improve environmental impact of farming

The Co-op Group launched a scheme to monitor and manage the environmental impact of its farming groups. The Co-op Enviro-Map programme is to be implemented over the next three years. Farms are assessed for their carbon footprints and biodiversity, the data is then processed and farmers receive individual reports showing how they can improve the efficiency of their business and reduce their environmental impact.


August: Scotland’s largest livestock co-op celebrates 20 years

Scotland’s largest farmer-owned livestock co-operative, Farm Stock, celebrated its 20th anniversary with plans to expand into northern England. Farm Stock Scotland was founded in 1996 with the merger of two lamb marketing groups. It is now owned by five member groups, who each own one share in Farm Stock, with each group in turn owned by between 100 and 250 individual farmers. The five groups retain their own local identity while gaining the economies of scale resulting from the co-operation of over 1,000 farmers.

September: Co-operation can boost Scottish agriculture, co-ops tell minister

Scottish co-ops are working with government officials to look at ways to promote the co-operative model in agriculture. On 23 August representatives from Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS), along with two of their member co-ops, Ringlink and Grampian Growers, met the cabinet secretary for rural economy and connectivity, Fergus Ewing. They discussed how the co-op model can help farming businesses pool resources, achieve economies of scale and share best practices and leading-edge technologies.

November: Farmers’ co-ops get government funding to encourage co-operation in Scottish agriculture

Two projects promoting and encouraging co-operation in Scottish agriculture will receive a government cash boost. The schemes will be funded through the SRDP Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund, which was created to improve the country’s agricultural sector, and will get £346,000. The initial four-year programme of work will be delivered by the Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS), the agricultural and supply chain development co-op.