Omsco celebrates 25 years

Omsco, the UK’s largest farmer-owned and run organic dairy co-operative, marked 25 years at its annual conference last week.

“We started with just five farmers selling liquid milk to three large customers in 1994. Twenty-five years on we have 250 members, producing over 50% of the country’s organic milk supply and are exporting added-value organic dairy products and specialist ingredients globally,” said Nicholas Saphir, Omsco’s chairman.

“It’s a complex business, balancing sales across these markets and products. Going forward into the next 25 years, our future success and returns to members will be determined by finding new markets for all of our milk constituents.”

Strategic supply chain partnerships were stated as key to this strategy, with Omsco partners, US co-operative Organic Valley and Australian dairy business Bellamy’s, both speaking about future markets for added value products made with Omsco milk at the event.

It was noted that the company’s joint membership with Organic Valley, the world’s largest organic milk pool, has opened a significant export market for butterfats, with initial orders establishing Omsco as the UK’s biggest exporter of butterfats to the US, and solid growth in organic demand offering long term growth prospects.

Also present were Wyke Farms, who partners with Omsco to make USDA certified, organic cheese. Together they supply 75% of the UK’s organic cheddar sales and 10% of the UK’s cheddar exports to the US.

“We’re dedicated to ensuring the best possible return for our members, and it is through forming meaningful, international partnerships that we’re able to achieve this,” added Saphir.

Looking to the future, animal health and welfare, reduced antibiotic use and promoting self-sufficiency in feed, were cited as the focus of Omsco’s farm strategy.

Henry Dimbleby, non-exec director of Defra leading the development of a National Food Strategy, recognised Omsco and its members as paving the way in sustainable farming and food production.

“The future success of the UK food and farming industry is vital for the UK economy, and to secure this we need to build a resilient food system,” he said.

“Omsco farmers have been at the forefront of sustainable farming from an environmental perspective, through their continued efforts to protect soils, retain carbon and restore biodiversity.”

Paying further tribute to the relationships that have been formed over the last 25 years, Omsco honoured Yeo Valley with an award in recognition of its longstanding and ongoing partnership with the co-operative, which sees the two businesses selling more organic dairy than anyone else in the UK.

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