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Opinion: Phil Bicknell, AHDB market intelligence director


Brexit has shaped the AHDB strategy to inspire our farmers, growers and industry to succeed in this rapidly changing world.


Brexit will bring opportunity. That might be broadening our export base, substituting EU imports or establishing a farming policy that suits the needs of UK farming.


At the same time, however, there is uncertainty about future trading arrangements, availability of labour and farm support policies. I am concerned this uncertainty risks translating into inertia among farmers and growers, best summarised as a ‘wait and see’ approach. In Brexit-related questions we asked as part of a levy payer survey, only 61 per cent of respondents expected Brexit to change the future of farming.


Perhaps this optimism will prove well-founded, but our policy environment, trading relationships and regulatory environment are up for review. I believe these will have consequences for all farming businesses as we extricate ourselves from the EU.


As agriculture identifies opportunities and looks to manage threats, the ‘stay the same’ scenario does not seem realistic to me. We may not know what the future looks like, but it should not stop us from looking at the scenarios, as AHDB is in its Horizon publications.


And it should not stop producers from making plans, in the same way as I expect most of our major manufacturers and retailers are. My guidance boils down to a couple of things. Firstly, understand the market you are operating in – not just who you sell it to, but where it ends up. Is it in a top quality butchers, or is it in a ready meal? Is it liquid milk or cheese?


What are the market dynamics? As farmers, we are going to be more reliant on the marketplace than ever. We need to understand our customer and meet their needs. This is why the new AHDB strategy has a clear focus on helping the industry understand and deliver what consumers will trust and buy. Secondly, know your business and your costs. Getting a better price than someone else is tough, particularly if you sell into commodity markets.


But there is much more potential to get a better deal on your inputs or be more productive at turning those inputs into outputs. It is why AHDB is rolling out whole-farm benchmarking, emphasising its critical importance in monitoring and measuring performance. As AHDB, we have got a pivotal role in helping the industry to seize the opportunity.



AHDB’s Horizon documents can be found at www.ahdb.org.uk/Brexit

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