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Andrew Naylor: Farm what they eat – why the consumer must be at the heart of agriculture this decade

The start of a new decade is often a prompt to reflect on the 10 years just gone, and to consider what the next ten will bring.

This, combined with the recent unveiling of the new Agriculture Bill, is the ideal prompt for farmers to evaluate what’s on the horizon for their sector and business, and how ready they are for this.

 

The saying goes that in farming you prepare for the worst and hope for the best. The thought of trying to prepare for three years in farming, never mind 10, can be a daunting prospect.

 

This last decade has shown just how exposed agriculture is to a variety of factors, namely politics, the economy and the weather, all of which are equally hard to predict and have the capacity to cause major disruption.

 

One thing politics, the economy and environment all have in common is that they are outside our control. But arguably the most important consideration for farmers this decade, and one that they do have the power to do something about, is transitioning to meet the demands of tomorrow’s consumer.

 

As a primary producer, the need to be delivering something that people want in order to succeed commercially is far from anything new.

 

But as we head into a new decade it is clear that this on its own is no longer enough for consumers – it needs to have been produced in a certain way too.


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The EU Commission recently said consumer expectations will drive the 2020s agricultural markets.

 

Animal welfare, environmental concerns and specialist production systems such as local, organic and GM free will all become even more central features of diets and drivers of purchase decisions.

 

There will also be an expected 50 per cent increase in protein crop output, such as soya, over the decade to meet rising interest in non-meat protein sources.

 

The new Agriculture Bill reflects this, as government subsidies will be used to support farmers in putting welfare and the environment at the heart of their businesses.

 

Many businesses are already taking steps to evolve the way they farm, such as adopting renewable energy technologies to reduce their carbon footprint.

 

One way we are supporting farmers and financing a green future is through the Clean Growth Financing Initiative (CGFI) Agriculture, which offers favourable loan terms to fund projects and invest in technology that lowers their impact on the environment.

 

While some may suggest that making significant changes to the way a farm operates to meet changing consumer preferences is a knee jerk reaction, the urgent changes needed to tackle climate change requires nothing less.

 

Changes today are common-sense, commercial decisions that will help future proof their businesses.

 

Decisions to make significant changes to the way you farm should be commercially motivated, and with growing consumer pressure for ethical and sustainable products, going green and staying in the black are no longer mutually exclusive.

  • Andrew Naylor is head of agriculture at Lloyds Bank and managing director of the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation
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