Riverland and South East SA Rural Report

07 February 2023

Primary producers are increasingly turning to co-ops to rebuild Australia’s capacity to process products following supply chain disruptions amid the COVID 19 pandemic. BCCM CEO Melina Morrison tells ABC SA’s Eliza Berlage the resurgence in agriculture co-ops is driven by farmers seeking a better financial return on their crops.

“So what we’re seeing is a real renaissance in the interest in co-operatives. They’ve always been important in our agricultural history. In fact, some of our biggest export markets in agriculture are dominated by co-operatives. That’s in not only in nuts like almonds but in berries. The blueberry sector wheat is exported, 40% of out of Western Australia through a farmer owned co-operative called CBH So they’re really important historically. But what we’re finding now is that primary producers are rediscovering the business model, particularly to do value adding. So food and beverage manufacturing, the advanced part of the process to get more value from the primary producers where we’re seeing growth. We’re really hoping that the canneries are going to come back because they were such an important way that Australia secured its food security in the past and we’ve lost a lot of that value added activity. We need to get it back. And have you heard much interest from growers or any industry groups about it trying to bring categories back? Yeah, look, we have really become in many respects a net importer of manufactured food goods and what primary producers want to do is own more of the supply chain, particularly the value adding part, because that’s the bit that adds to their farm income. If we think of those great labels that we used to know, Golden Circle, SAFF, Cole Goulburn Valley, these were all great Aussie brands and they were co-operatively owned So what we’re sensing now and getting inquiries about is how can we set up a farmer, co-operative or producer co-operatives that’s going to just do that part of it. We want to own the value adding part and even marketing, you know, labelling and getting into more export markets. We can think about this around boutique industries as well, like wine. It’s not just about getting the bigger companies on the global map, it’s smaller producers coming together and through their network marketing and able and being able to export into the global market as if they’re a bigger entity…”

Listen to the full interview on Riverland and South East SA Rural Report, 7 February 2023

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