University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives
Rural Cooperatives, July/August 1997, pg. 24-25
Published by the Rural Business and Cooperative Development Service 

Canadian Cooperatives Report $24.8 Billion in 1995 Sales

Charles A. Kraenzle

Director, Statistics
USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service

Cooperatives play an important  role in the Canadian economy, as indicated by the $24.8 billion of combined business volume and $14.1 billion in assets reported for 1995 by that nation's 5,412 cooperatives. Canada includes all cooperatives in this study except financial cooperatives. Canada had 808 agricultural co-ops in 1995 which represented more than 620,000 agricultural producers with a combined business volume of $15.7 billion and assets of $5 billion.

    These were some of the major findings of a recently released report, "Co-operatives in Canada," compiled by Canada's
Co-operatives Secretariat (Editor's note: Canadians, like the English, hyphenate the word "co-operative." In the United States, the word is only hyphenated when abbreviated as "co-op"). The report includes number, memberships, business volume and balance sheet data of marketing, supply, fishing, consumer, production and service cooperatives.

    The largest number of cooperatives was in the service category, with 3,904 co-ops, followed by consumer cooperatives with 582 (table 1). Consumer cooperatives had the largest membership with nearly 3 million members. Service cooperatives ranked second with 932,000 memberships.

    Marketing cooperatives represent a major economic force in Canada. Their combined business volume totaled $11.8 billion with assets of $3.5 billion (fig. 1). More than 88 percent, or nearly $10.5 billion, of this business volume was derived from the marketing of agricultural products in Canada and abroad. The remaining business volume came from consumer goods and agricultural supplies.

Cooperative business volume and assets volume, Canada, 1995

    Cooperatives' market share of grains and oilseeds at the farm gate was estimated at 59 percent in western Canada and 21 percent in the eastern province of Ontario. Co-op market share was 57 percent for dairy, 47 percent for poultry but only 4 percent in the marketing of eggs, 15 percent for fruit, and 8 percent for vegetables. By comparison, U.S. farmer cooperatives accounted for 88 percent of milk, 41 percent of grains and oilseeds and 23 percent of fruits and vegetables marketed off the farm. Data on individual fruits and vegetables are not calculated separately for U.S. farmer cooperatives.

    Supply cooperatives also play an important role in Canada. They provide member cooperatives and producers with fertilizers, crop protectants, feed, farm machinery, seeds, petroleum and other inputs needed on the farm. In 1995, they had a combined business volume of $4 billion and assets of $1.4 billion. More than 34 percent, or nearly $1.4 billion, came from the marketing of farm and consumer products and nearly 64 percent, or nearly $2.6 billion, from farm supply sales. The remaining 2 percent was service revenue and other income. Of the $2.6 billion in farm supply sales, petroleum accounted for 30.5 percent, feed for 24.8 percent and fertilizer and crop protectants for 21.9 percent of the total. Other supplies accounted for 21.6 percent and seed accounted for the remaining 1.2 percent.

    Consumer cooperatives vary in size and sophistication, from small buying clubs, to large supermarket organizations and wholesale outlets. Sales of these cooperatives totaled $6.4 billion with assets of $2.3 billion in 1995. Food products, dry goods and home hardware accounted for $3.9 billion, or nearly 61.6 percent, of the total sales by consumer co-ops. These cooperatives also accounted for nearly $1.3 billion in petroleum sales and $569 million in building materials, agricultural and other supplies.

    Among this group are the Canada's two largest co-ops, Federated Co-operatives Limited, with 343 member cooperatives, and Calgary Co-op Association Ltd., which is considered the largest consumer cooperative in North America, with nearly 40 percent of the local retail market. Sales include food products, hardware, clothing, home furnishings, petroleum products, building materials, travel services and pharmaceuticals. Production cooperatives include feeder, grazing, agricultural machinery, artificial insemination, forestry and handicraft cooperatives. The 461 production cooperatives reported 31,000 memberships and a combined business volume of $778.1 million with assets of $432.1 million. Management of grazing operations and farm feeder operations were the two main activities of production cooperatives, with 143 and 119 enterprises, respectively, accounting for 57 percent of all production cooperatives.

Table 1- Cooperative type, number and memberships, Canada, 1995
Cooperative type



    Service cooperatives, such as housing, child care, health care, community development, funeral, water supplying, recreational, transportation and communication, made up the largest number of Canadian cooperatives, with 3,904. In 1995, they accounted for 72 percent of Canada's 5,412 cooperatives. Among service cooperatives, there were 1,946 housing cooperatives with combined assets of nearly $5.3 billion and 107,000 members. Unlike other cooperatives included in the report, the combined assets of service cooperatives were much larger than their combined business volume.

    Fifty-six fishery cooperatives with 8,000 memberships reported sales of $164.6 million and assets of $48.4 million.

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