SAOS ‘Next Generation’ award goes to Kate Drever of Aberdeen Grain

Kate Drever Next GenKate Drever was recognised at the SAOS conference yesterday as ‘one to watch’ for the work and accomplishments she has achieved so far at Aberdeen Grain and through the Co-op Staff Forum facilitated by SAOS. George Lawrie, SAOS Chairman, presented her with the award.

Kate joined Aberdeen Grain five years ago with very little experience of grain laboratory work or crop storage.  Since then, her knowledge and skill base have reached a level where she leads the team and is exceptionally well-respected, both within the supply trade and also with Aberdeen Grain members. During harvest time, Kate has the difficult job of informing members when their produce is of a lower specification than they expect. Her excellent demeanour and obvious knowledge ensure that, rather than being contentious, these conversations allow the member to understand the issues and help to improve their product in the future. Bearing in mind that in many cases this is done under intense harvest time pressure, this is a testament to Kate’s overall character and professionalism.

During harvest, Kate is in charge of around eight lab staff; split over two shifts during a 12 – 14hr intake period, but she still finds the time to produce a very detailed and informative summary of the day’s intake, allowing the business to function to a very high standard. This additional work for the benefit of Aberdeen Grain and its members is very much aligned to the co-op’s ethics and principles.

Through the Co-op Staff Forum run by SAOS, Kate has developed her overall knowledge of co-ops and their governance, and she demonstrates a real passion and understanding for co-operative working.

Presenting the award, George Lawrie, SAOS Chairman, commented: “Kate’s role is clearly critical to the success of Aberdeen Grain and her hard work and commitment to improving communication with members and the overall business are a real credit to her. In an era when young people are sometimes perceived to have a poor work ethic, it’s great to have proof that this is far from the case.”

The Next Generation Award forms part of SAOS’ work looking at ways to encourage, motivate and recognise younger people involved in agricultural and rural co-ops. Nominees for the award must be 40 years of age or younger and must have made an impression on the industry with their leadership, vision and commitment to co-operation. As part of the award, Kate will be invited to attend next year’s Oxford Farming Conference in January 2018.”

Stephen Young, SAOS Project Manager, who was closely involved with the award process commented: “We were delighted to receive some very high quality nominations, and to hear of great work being done throughout the industry. It’s clear that there are lots of young individuals out there making a real difference in their co-ops and it was really heartening to hear about them.”

SAOS Training for farmer directors, co-op managers and staff in 2017

The expectations and demands of co-op directors, managers and staff are constantly increasing, as is the continued need to improve skills and knowledge through effective training. Developing personal capability is one of the most effective ways to improve a co-op’s performance. SAOS’ winter training programme offers a great opportunity to advance the skills and knowledge of farmer directors, co-op managers and wider co-op staff.

Last winter’s training events were a huge success with over 60 co-op directors, managers and staff attending the various events. We appreciate that accessing bespoke training can be a problem for co-op businesses, so please take advantage of the various training opportunities provided.
Getting a group of co-op directors and managers together provides great networking opportunities, it is always interesting to hear how other co-ops tackle similar issues. No matter your experience you will always learn something which can be applied back to your own co-op.

The following three workshops are planned, click on the links for further details:

1. Effective Co-op Governance – Wed 18th January 2017

2. Developing Strategic Capability – Wed 1st February 2017

3. Marketing and Member Relations – Thurs 16th February 2017






Hot off the press – SAOS Update for Winter ’16/17

The latest issue of our SAOS Update is now available to download. (Printed copies will also be sent out this week, together with details of the SAOS Conference on 26th Jan at Dunblane Hydro).

You can view our other SAOS Updates here.

SAOS Conference 17 now open for booking

SAOS’ Members’ day and conference takes place on Thursday 26th January 2017 at Dunblane Hydro.

This year’s topic is ‘Brexit and Co-op Priorities for the Next Five Years’.

Full details can be found in the Conference Programme and registration form below. These are also being distributed shortly with the SAOS Winter Update.

Please get your bookings in as soon as possible, and by 19th January at the latest.


EU Task Force Recommendations to Improve Farmers’ Position in the Supply Chain

In November, after a year of research, an EU Agricultural Markets Task Force published its report and recommendations on “Enhancing the Position of Farmers in the Supply Chain”. Commenting on the report, SAOS Chief Exec, James Graham, said: “Our concern is that the level of volatility and risk affecting the viability of farming appears to be getting more extreme. At some point, this could threaten continuity of production and food supplies from impacted sectors, and afflict real disruption on farming families and rural communities. Better ways to mitigate and manage risk are required.”

“The fact that retail prices, which are determined by food retailer competition, can be so disconnected from farm prices, which are determined by global supply/demand commodity dynamics, presents real challenges in supply chain relationships and has resulted in asymmetric pricing. New supply chain thinking and models are required that acknowledge and better accommodate commodity volatility, perhaps by examining ways to share commitment and risk at least to some degree. This requires the willingness of all involved in the chain to participate. Fears in some parts of the chain, that commerciality might be compromised, all too frequently prevents meaningful discussion. The recommendations merit careful consideration in respect of EU and potential post Brexit UK policy.”

Some of the key recommendations are summarised below.

Market transparency
• Mandatory price reporting for selected products
• Modernise and improve data collection and forum for information exchange
• Incorporate consumption information
• Enable farmers to use more market information in decision making

Risk management
• Map all relevant data linked to occurrence of risks
• Harmonise use of tax averaging across the EU
• Improve farmer knowledge of risk management business strategies
• Facilitate information exchange of best practice in risk management
• Shift CAP resources to develop a strategic EU risk management policy

Futures contracts and derivative instruments
• Fund training for farmers and co-ops and promote available tools
• Provide technical advice and share best practice outcomes
• Mobilise funds for new futures markets
• Set up credit guarantee schemes for events of difficulty in covering margin calls

Trading practices in agricultural markets
• Introduce, and provide for enforcement of, EU framework legislation on specified prohibited ‘unfair trading practices’ at both domestic and transnational levels
• Remove the ‘fear factor’ from reporting an unfair trading practice (involve producer organisations and co-ops)
• Facilitate EU platform for information exchange on trading practices

Competition law
• Clarify the exemption for competition law of farmers jointly planning and selling production collectively in co-ops and producer organisations
• Revise EU regulation introducing standard competition law derogations across all sectors (retaining the specific dairy sector derogation in the meantime)
• Provide a procedure for farmers (with their organisations) to obtain legal security up-front, in the form of a “comfort letter” from the Commission.

The full report can be found at:

UK Grocery Code Adjudicator – should the remit extend to farmer/processor relationships?

A consultation is currently underway by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) calling for any evidence on the case for extending the remit of the Groceries Code Adjudicator. BEIS states: “This is in response to concerns from groups in the groceries supply chain not covered by the Code, in particular farmers, who are indirect suppliers to retailers. These groups argue that they face the same, or similar, behaviours as those which the Code prohibits. They consider the Code – and therefore the GCA’s remit – is too narrow to protect them. The government recognises these concerns and has decided it would be appropriate to consider extension of the GCA’s remit”, but is not making any specific proposal at this stage, other than to seek evidence.

The closing date for the consultation is 10 January 2017. The consultation documents can be found at:


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