Co-operative enterprises in Northern Ireland have contributed around £35.6bn to the sector in the UK, says a new report.
The UK co-operative economy is outperforming the UK economy for a fourth consecutive year, with a growth of 1.5% in 2011 compared with 0.7% in the UK economy.
The largest concerns in Northern Ireland include Fane Valley Co-operative Society, Ballyrashane Co-operative Agricultural and Dairy Society, Fivemiletown Co-operative and United Dairy Farmers.
Annual figures released in Belfast by Co-operatives UK, the trade body for co-operatives, at a conference run by the Northern Ireland Co-operative Forum, show that while the real level of GDP in the UK in 2011 is 1.7% lower than in 2008, the turnover of the co-operative sector has grown 19.5% over that period. The number of co-operatives in Northern Ireland has grown in 2011 from 239 to 251.
Areas seeing the largest growth include renewable energy co-operatives that provide power, profits and strength to communities and the 242 co-operative schools now owned and controlled by communities, teachers, parents and pupils across the country.