ADHB Brexit 360 Sessions – A Roundup

On 28th March we tuned in to some live discussions arranged and broadcast by the ADHB in conjunction with Farmers Guardian, talking about what we know about Brexit so far and how it might affect the agriculture and horticulture industries. There is now only one year until Brexit. It will inevitably bring change—although nobody is sure of the exact details and impacts at this point—and it’s up to everyone in the industry to come together and discuss how we can prepare for, adapt to and benefit from Britain leaving the European Union. You can still view the sessions online. Here is our roundup of the important things that were discussed by industry experts during the sessions.

Session One – Where Are We Now?

The first session examined the current situation, developments since the referendum, and changes we might be able to expect post-Brexit. On the panel were Ben Briggs, Editor of Farmers Guardian, Phil Bicknell, Market Intelligence Director at AHDB, Tom Keen, EU Exit and International Trade Adviser at NFU and John Richards, Industry Development and Relations Manager at Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC – Meat Promotion Wales).

The panel firstly discussed the current issues being considered around Brexit, such as uncertainty about what will happen as regards the large number of Eastern European agricultural labourers currently working here. They talked about how the industry will need to use the 18-month transition period efficiently to properly prepare for the changes. There was emphasis on how farmers need to diversify, have multiple income streams and be able to operate without direct income, and should consider getting external consultants to take a look at their business if in doubt. The focus was definitely on the need to prepare businesses as early as possible.

In the Q&A section, the main topics of discussion were about what agriculture policy will look like in the future: how much environment will play a role, whether agriculture policy might change each time a new UK government is elected and how this could be avoided, and that the UK needs something in place to temper commodity price volatility, equivalent to EU capping mechanisms and US insurance schemes.

Session Two – Global Opportunities and Challenges

This session looked at the challenges the industry will face after Brexit and also the opportunities that will be presented. Peter Hardwick, Head of Exports at AHDB, Rob Clayton, Potatoes Strategy Director at AHDB and David Swales, Head of Strategic Insight at AHDB were on the panel for this discussion.

The panel talked about the potential challenges that could arise due to two thirds of UK agriculture exports being shipped to the EU and 70% of UK imports coming from the EU, such as price changes due to new trade agreements. However, they also talked about the opportunities, and how the UK food and farming industries can thrive after Brexit. Ideas included investing in developing markets such as China and the Asia Pacific region, where demand is growing but domestic production may soon fall short. And while imports could become more expensive once we have left the EU, there may be opportunities for import substitution: using domestic products instead.

In the second section, the experts discussed what would need to be taken into account in post-Brexit trade, namely trade friction due to additional controls, and rules of origin when selling our own imports from non-EU countries on to the EU.

Another key thing the panel talked about was a need to focus on the British brand. As we may not be able to price our exports competitively, we will need to differentiate ourselves through other things such as quality, health and safety, and assurance.

Session 3 – Fit for the future

The third and final session looked further into how we can prepare for a post-Brexit world. This time the panel consisted of Martin Williams, Monitor Farmer, Graham Redman, Partner at The Anderson Centre, Sarah Baker, Strategic Insight Manager at AHDB and Philip Dolbear, Knowledge Exchange Manager at AHDB.

The discussion focused on the idea that farmers need to make their business as fit and efficient as possible at this early stage, in order to be optimally prepared for any challenges that may arise from Brexit. Sarah Baker spoke about a move from success being measured by output and yield, as it traditionally has been, to being measured by efficiency and profitability. That is, a lower output can be a positive thing if paired with an even lower input and the profit margin is increased.

There was also praise of British farmers and their adaptability and resilience, with the sessions ending on a positive note: with confidence that the industry can adapt to the changes and be successful over the coming years.

You can watch the videos in full here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUtdTaGHxLgzfqCNeACQmIw.

The live sessions gave a great insight to some of the issues around Brexit and how to be prepared. However, what is clear is that much of the impact of Brexit is still unknown. With a year to go, much is still to be decided and the industry is still in a period of uncertainty. Hopefully as time moves on things will become clearer and people from across the industry can come together to tackle any challenges and seize any opportunities that arise.

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