Once again Ray and the team at Upton and Pershore NFU had pulled together a diverse panel to discuss the challenges faced by Brexit and what should be done to embrace the change. The event was attended by over 120 farmers from the local area.
The first speaker of the evening was Ali Capper whoi is a Nuffield Scholar and is the current National Horticulture Chairwoman for the NFU. Ali highlighted that farmers have constantly faced change within the industry and its political influences and as such Brexit should be no different. She noted with caution that Brexit should not be allowed to side track the other important issues that the government need to deal with such as plan protection products and seasonal agricultural workers. The seasonal agricultural worker supply is a huge area of concern with only half the required workers available in the last apple and hop season. Therefore as much as Brexit needs to be embraced it also needs to move forwards so the practical issues can be resolved.
Well attended conference sponsored by Carver Knowles
Next to the podium was CEO of the National Sheep Association, Phil Stocker. Phil suggested sheep farmers should focus on achieving the best trade deals in order to embrace Brexit fully. As 30-40% of the sheep and lamb products produced in the UK are exported, with 95% of this to mainland Europe. The NSA are promoting trade deals across the globe with a focus on the quality available from British products. Embracing Brexit also means lamb can be proudly marketed to the Rest of the World as British produce and needs not to be wrapped in the European banner any more. This will allow a focus to be made on the artisan market allow hill farmed grass fed lamb to achieve premium prices for high quality products. Achieving a better trade market will lead to better returns for farmers, thereby reducing the concerns over subsidies and support mechanisms.
Adam Quinney stood in for an unwell Sir Peter Kendall but as Chairman of AHDB Beef and Lamb and former NFU Vice President he was well placed to discuss on to Embrace Brexit for livestock farmers. Adam’s key point of the night was to ensure your business remains focussed on what you do. He was concerned that any reliance on government subsidies would be misplaced as the policies can change with each change of government leaving businesses in a vulnerable position. He promoted the point that the best way for farmers to protect their businesses was to focus on the areas that were within their control, whether that was focussing on increasing production, reducing costs of production, diversifying to broaden income sources or adding value their existing products. He suggested farmers should take grants while they are being offered to improve farm efficiencies as the improvement will continue to benefit the farm beyond Brexit. Adam said ‘Any of these areas will improve an agricultural business’ resilience and reduce the reliance on the support schemes.’
Finally Ciara Gorst gave the audience a different point of view as the head of agriculture at the Co-op. Ciara highlighted the British history of the business and its small dynamic nature enabling the business to focus on what is important in the industry. She confirmed that the most recent target has been achieved by Co-op was that all fresh meat sold in stores, either as a product or an ingredient, was British. Their next aim is to extend this to their frozen meat products. This focus on British produce enables them to protect themselves to the European changes.
The overarching message to Embrace Brexit was therefore through focussing on the areas of the business that you can change and those that need to change to give you as much strength and stability as possible. British farmers have and will always be resilient but it is making the most of these challenges through innovation, focus and determination to succeed.
If this has inspired you to focus on your business and need professional help with planning, grants or finance please do not hesitate to get in touch on 01684 853400.