6 May 2014
THE Green Party have described the Co-operative Groups decision to sell off its farms in a rush firesale as "another disgraceful decision from a totally failed management."
The Co-op Group has announced losses of £2.5 billion as a result of a failed take-over policy and trouble with its banking business. The Group announced its decision to sell its 15 farms in February but has only just made clear that it intends to sell all the farms together to a single bidder by the end of May. It is believed that the sale is aimed at big financial businesses, notably the Chinese who are very keen to buy up productive land. It is expected that the sale will realise around £140 million. Two of the farms are in the East Midlands, Louth Park Farms in Lincolnshire and the Stoughton Estate in Leicestershire.
Responding to the decision to sell off the farms quickly, Kat Boettge, the East Midlands' Greens lead candidate in the European Elections, said,
"The Coop management clearly want to turn the Cooperative Group in to yet another conventional and aggressive high street supermarket and abandon completely the core Cooperative values that the Group was built on.
"This valuable national asset of sustainable farming practice will be lost by a big business takeover that will cash in on the hard work and long term investment of the Co-op farmers and members. The Green Party supports the demand by the Biodynamic Land Trust that the Co-op management allows Community buyouts of the individual farms."
Biodynamic Land Trust is a Charitable organisation set up to make land available for sustainable cultivation. It says that community farm buyouts can and do work. Since 2006 over 1,000 community benefit societies have been successfully set up to save pubs, run village shops, develop community renewable energy and run farms.
The Green Party says that the best way for the UK to achieve food security is to support a national network of small to medium sized farm and food processing enterprises along the lines of the original Co-op model.
"The future of global food supply is increasingly unpredictable", Kat Boettge said. "It is essential that we protect our national asset of quality land and working farms and build up a sustainable local food supply network. This decision by the Co-op Group management is a disaster and I call on Ursula Lidbetter, the Co-op Group chair, and CEO Richard Pennycook to urgently reconsider this proposed sale. I also ask that Co-op members, farm staff, and Group board members to urgently apply pressure to reverse the present policy."