Warehouse Cooperatives, agricultural purchasing and retailing cooperatives (agricultural cooperatives first emerged in Austria in 1898. The first cooperative was founded in 1898 following the suggestion of the Landtag in Lower Austria (the idea was initiated by J. Ritter Mitscha von Märheim in 1896) according to the German model in Pöchlarn (Lower Austria) by the priest M. Bauchinger as an answer to speculative futures trading. Warehouse cooperatives with head offices in every province emerged in all Austrian provinces except Vienna from 1918 onwards (1924: 246, 1936: 135). Further expansions followed from 1945 onwards (1948: 193 warehouse cooperatives with 638 branches, 1958: 193 warehouse cooperatives with 1,650 branches, 1968: 200 warehouse cooperatives with 1,177 branches). The federal warehouse association "Warenzentrale österreichischer Verbände landwirtschaftlicher Genossenschaften" (Association of the Austrian Agricultural Warehouse Cooperatives) was founded by the provincial branches in 1946. It changed its name to "Österreichische Raiffeisen-Warenzentrale" (Austrian Raiffeisen Warehouse Association) in 1982. In 1993 "Raiffeisen Ware Austria" (RWA Warehouse Association), was founded; members are the Raiffeisen warehouses in Lower Austria, Styria and most of the warehouses in Upper Austria. The association is aiming towards developing into an organisation which meets the toughened requirements of the competitive situation in the European Union. The BayWa AG (Munich) is the majority owner of the warehouse associations of the provinces Carinthia, Tyrol and Vorarlberg.
Agricultural purchasing and retailing cooperatives were included in the trade regulations in 1974 (186 warehouse cooperatives with 1,019 branches) and have since been allowed to do business with non-members as well. This has brought about a strong increase in business activities in the non-agricultural sector. Apart from the sale of agricultural products - market share from 60 % (cereals) to 85 % (oil seeds) - and trade with agricultural equipment - market share from 40 % (machines) to 70 % (pesticides) - warehouse cooperatives also deal with building material. Structural changes in agriculture have caused a number of mergers of warehouse cooperatives (1993: 184 warehouse cooperatives with 706 branches). In 1993 these cooperatives had about 178,600 members; turnover: 32.9 billion ATS. By 1998 there were 129 warehouse cooperatives with 724 branches and about 157,000 members, turnover fell to 31.4 billion ATS on account of price decreases in the agricultural sector since Austria's accession to the EU in 1995.