This year’s Agribusiness Conference in Peterborough saw multiple industry experts address some of the biggest questions facing UK agriculture. The message was clear that a robust agriculture and food strategy that delivers increased productivity and environmental protection is essential for the industry going forward.
Convened by AIC – the UK trade association representing agricultural supply chain sectors responsible for some £9bn of farm trade – the conference saw over 200 delegates attending, all of whom were clear when surveyed: the industry is undergoing unprecedented change and requires strong leadership. 91% of delegates agreed that the requirement for the sector to achieve a carbon neutral balance sheet with be a major factor affecting Production in the future.
Stuart Roberts, Vice President of the NFU, outlined the scope of the challenge: “In the next 30 years, we have to produce the same amount of food we’ve produced in the previous 10,000,” said Mr Roberts. Mr Roberts was clear that though change was necessary, UK agriculture is well placed to act as global leaders: “It’s a massive challenge, but a massive opportunity for British agriculture. Our high standards are critical for the future of British agriculture. We must be part of the solution, not seen as the problem.”
These sentiments were echoed by other speakers, including Allan Wilkinson, Head of Agriculture at HSBC, who praised the industry’s strength while issuing a call for greater progression. “We are in slightly troubled times, but the economy has been remarkably resilient,” said Mr Wilkinson. “We face an enormous change in our operating level and have to help all businesses understand where they are and how to improve. The industry is going to face a lot of change. What an opportunity we have to get it right.”
“We need to deliver industry targets, not wait for regulation,” said Robert Sheasby, Chief Executive for AIC, in his introduction. Other speakers echoed this, urging attendees – and the industry as a whole – to lead the industry charge forward, rather than waiting for change.
The Conference Chairman, BBC Rural Affairs Correspondent Tom Heap, surveyed the attendees both before and after the conference on whether they were optimistic about the new horizons facing the agri-food supply chain. The result at the end showed a substantial shift, with a large number more optimistic at the day’s end. The message was clear and direct to the agrisupply chain: challenges are present, but we must lead the change for increased productivity whilst meeting our sustainability obligations .