Collaboration and innovation will be key for agrisupply chains post-Brexit

Collaboration and innovation emerged as key themes at the Agricultural Industries Confederation’s Agribusiness 2019 conference, held against the backdrop of hourly news on Brexit.

Addressing the theme of ‘Creating a resilient UK Agri-food supply chain’, key speakers, including NFU President Minette Batters and Sir Peter Kendall, talked of the need for collaborative work across the food and farming sectors. Sir Peter, in his role as a member of the Food and Drink Council, called on the delegates who were senior figures in the agrisupply industry to work together to establish priorities that will address the need for increased productivity in the sector.

On the topic of the Agriculture Bill making its way through Parliament, Mrs Batters said: “Nothing wrong with the Agricultural Bill – it’s the policy around it that will define the future of UK Agriculture.”

AIC Chief Executive Robert Sheasby highlighted the high level of engagement that the Confederation across the food chain, from the supply of inputs and professional advice to farms through to the role of the AIC assurance schemes that underpin traceability along with food and feed safety.

During the conference delegates took part in several polls. There was a degree of optimism about post-Brexit Britain with 50 percent agreeing that ‘Brexit will provide more opportunities than threats post Brexit for the agrisupply, farming and food supply chain’.

However, more worryingly 65 per cent disagreed with the statement ‘Farmers will be in a position to secure all their agrisupply inputs post 30 March 2019’, and 56% disagreed with the statement ‘Defra will secure a good deal for UK agriculture and the agrisupply industry post March 2019.’

Other speakers at the conference, included Alison Ismail, Acting Director of Defra’s Agri-Food Chain Directorate who told the conference that Defra had an ambition to see more food grown and sold in the UK. Gemma Cooper from Neilsen provided an insight into consumer trends, and leaders from two AgriTech Centres: Fraser Black from CHAP (Crop Health and Protection), and Lindsay Chapman from CIEL (Centre for Innovation Excellence in Livestock) spoke on progress in the AgriTech initiatives.

AIC Chief Operating Officer John Kelley said: “This was one of the best attended conference in recent years with high levels of audience participation. While there is clearly uncertainty about the position for agricultural inputs post-Brexit and the ability of Defra to deliver the support required, there was lots of good news concerning innovation and collaboration for the future.