Speakers outline challenging future at AIC conference

Preparing for a challenging future was a common theme for speakers at this year’s AgriBusiness conference organised by the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC). AgriBusiness 2016, which was held at the East of England showground, took as its theme ‘Accelerating the agriculture and food agenda’.

Beth Hart, Head of Product development and Technology – Fresh Foods, Sainsbury’s gave delegates a stark view of the dynamic, highly competitive state of retailing. She reviewed a situation over the past few years that saw the recession coming together with the advent of discount retailers in the UK. As a result of changes in consumer behaviour she said that £1.4 billion worth of sales had disappeared which would never come back.

Leading economist Sean Rickard explored what life outside the EU would look like for agriculture, as well as predicting that further consolidation across the supply chain, and particularly for farmers, was inevitable. He said that even with European support only 64 per cent of farming businesses are in a position to make money. Increased scale was the only way for farmers to be sustainable.

AIC Chief Executive David Caffall gave a flavour of the more than 100 issues currently being addressed by the AIC. He spoke during a session that included Flavio Coturni, Head of Unit for ‘Agricultural Policy Analysis and Perspectives’ at the European Commission. Speaking in the panel session that followed, David drew attention to the fact that many European standards needlessly surpass other global standards, and by a degree of magnitude, which disadvantages European agribusinesses.

Other speakers were Dr. Stephen Axford, Head of Agritech Strategy, Ricardo Arioli Silva, a Brazilian soya farmer, and Dr. Marianne Ellis, from the University of Bath, whose future view included the possibility of laboratory meat production.

“This was perhaps our most far reaching event yet; both in terms of the topics covered and the international nature of our speakers. This reflects the increasingly complex and global nature of the agricultural supply industry in which AICs’ Members operate,” said AIC Chief Operating Officer John Kelley who led the conference organising team.

Presentations and videos of the conference speeches are available to download from the agenda page.