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Reports of tough times ahead for UK producers but opportunities remain

There are potentially turbulent times ahead for trade but industry must work together to ensure we are prepared for whatever the future holds.

23 October 2019, at 10:20am

That was the overriding message from AHDB’s annual export conference Global Britain – which for the first time ever was livestreamed from the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington.

Throughout the day, a line-up of experts discussed some of the most important and timely topics facing industry today, including UK trade discussions, new market access and the short and long term impacts of Brexit.

AHDB International Market Development Director Dr Phil Hadley kicked off the conference by giving an overview of the current situation for UK exports – highlighting some of the recent market access wins including China, Japan and Taiwan.

He said: “We are rightly proud of our export successes but there are potentially turbulent times ahead. Global Britain is such an important event as it brings together industry leaders and experts across a number of platforms who have the knowledge and expertise to help us all face the challenges and make the most of any opportunities. This is vital if we are to prosper during these changeable times.”

Doug Forsyth, the Director General for Trade Policy at the Department of Global Affairs for Canada talked about the Canada-UK post Brexit trade discussions.

He said that while there are challenges in the post Brexit world due to the degree of uncertainty in terms of market access, there are also opportunities as long the two countries continue to work together.

When asked what a new trade deal between the two countries could look like, Mr Forsyth said there were opportunities to go beyond CETA, saying there are areas of the agreement that could be improved.

Dr Phil Hadley speaking at Global Britain
Dr Phil Hadley speaking at Global Britain

Joe Healy, President of the Irish Farmers’ Association and a dairy farmer, also explored the future of UK trade post Brexit. Viewers then saw a video of Graham Stuart, Minister for Investment at the Department for International Trade, who talked about the value of exports and the recent market access wins for industry.

He added: “Our food and drink exports are a success story, the figures speak for themselves but we want to go even further. We want to be an outward-looking, independent, free-trading nation and we want our companies to tap into opportunities in the wider world, accessing high growth markets whose demand will drive this country’s prosperity over the next generation.

“That’s not to say that when we leave the EU we will be turning our back on Europe – quite the contrary. We want to build on the important commercial ties we have with our European trade partners so that we have mutually beneficial relationships going forward.”

A panel session was held on the short term impacts and long term solutions of Brexit, chaired by AHDB’s Market Intelligence Director Phil Bicknell. He was joined by AHDB Head of Strategic Insight David Swales, Divisional Director of Promar International John Giles and Oliver McIntyre, Agricultural Strategy Director of Barclays Bank.

Mr Bicknell said: “We know that short term uncertainty has delayed decisions on farm and the panel discussion was a stark reminder to focus on what you can influence. Issues like knowing your costs, understanding your markets, and being savvy about the opportunities were central to the discussion.”

The afternoon started with a crop session – led by Dr Hadley, who was joined by Triona Davey, SASA’s Head of Potato Branch, and AHDB’s Head of Market Specialists for Arable David Eudall.

Mr Eudall discussed the UK’s grain production, export supplies, current market trade and future markets – including North Africa which he believes has great potential if the UK can produce consistent volumes and remain competitive on price.

A livestock session, chaired by AHDB Head of Asia Pacific Jonathan Eckley, included a presentation from Mary Quicke, Managing Director of Quicke’s – a Devon-based dairy farm which exports around 40 per cent of its cheese.

The potential of the Asian market was explored by Rupert Claxton, the Meat Director of Gira, who spoke about the detrimental impact of the ASF outbreak on the pork sector – with China witnessing a pork price surge and a demand for other meats.

Joel Haggard, Senior Vice President of US Meat Export Federation, also spoke about the Asian marketplace. And John Masswohl, Director Government and International Relations for the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, discussed the changing dynamics of Canadian beef.

The conference finished with a talk from Christine Middlemiss, the UK CVO, who spoke about the global animal health system.