UK agricultural co‑operatives: Key facts

Farmer-controlled businesses are an incredibly important part of the UK’s economic landscape. Contributing £7.7 billion to the UK economy, agricultural co-operatives play a leading role in the Co-operative Economy.

  • Agricultural co-operatives are the second largest part of the co-operative sector by turnover
  • There are 420 farmer co-ops in the UK
  • 143,000 farmers - around half of the UK’s farmers - are members and co-owners of these businesses
  • The sector has an annual turnover of £7.7 billion
  • Close to half of the top 100 co-ops in the UK are agricultural co-operatives, showing the large role they play in the co-operative economy

Discover how five farmers helped create the only national, 100% dedicated organic farmer-run and farmer-owned co-operative in the UK in our case study on Organic Milk Suppliers Co-operative (OMSCo)

The breadth of agricultural co-operatives

The agricultural co-operative model works across the farming industry - with a particular focus around four key sub-sectors:

  • Dairy. Milk marketing and processing co-operatives that include large players in the industry, such as Arla Foods UK and OMSCO.
  • Crops. Co-operatives focused on grain, potato and wider arable crops storage, processing and marketing, including firms such as Openfield Group and United Oilseeds.
  • Agricultural suppliers. The co-operative model is used for both input and retail suppliers, for example Mole Valley Farmers and Fram Farmers
  • Horticulture. Produce marketing co-operatives and producer organisations play an important role in the fresh produce sector, with businesses such as Berry Garden Growers and Green Pea Company.

The benefits of agricultural co-operatives

  • Control. Agricultural co-operatives give farmers control over crucial parts of the supply chain
  • Cost savings. Through economies of scale farmers are able to cut costs by collaborating in vital business areas like purchasing, processing and marketing
  • Tax efficiency. Members of agricultural co-operatives can achieve tax efficiency through ‘mutual trading status’
  • Best practice. Collaboration enables farmers to share knowledge and best practice - boosting productivity and spreading innovation

 "Being an Arla farmer owner is a great source of strength to me, especially during tough times. It gives me the confidence to continue investing in my dairy farm and helps me plan for long term. I have a clear say in how much I’m paid for my milk and help elect the Board of Representatives, Arla’s decision making body. What’s more, Arla guarantees to take every drop of milk I produce so I can continue to grow.” Arthur Fearnell, one of 3,000 Arla farmer-owners in the UK

To discover more about how membership of Co-operatives UK can benefit your farmer-owned business, contact Agriculture Manager Richard Self  via [email protected].