It’s been encouraging to see a positive start for the industry in 2012, not least with keynote speeches from Jim Paice and Caroline Spelman at the Oxford Farming Conference.
Citing the importance of the global food market, Mr Paice stressed the need to cultivate new markets for products where we are most competitive. With the country’s food and drink exports growing by 11 per cent to £16 billion last year, the role of exports is abundantly clear. For example, last year saw beef exports rise by 36 per cent and a dedicated push on exports of beef, lamb and fifth quarter products will continue throughout 2012, with further trade missions planned, as well as attendance at key events.
The Government’s Agri-food and Drink Exports Action Plan – also touched on by Mrs Spelman at the Oxford conference – will have an important role to play in this ongoing success, particularly in putting the building blocks in place to help companies succeed overseas. Central to this is the need to simplify the paperwork involved in exports. While it’s never a simple process, backing from the highest level will go a long way to helping us open new markets, notably in the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China. As we’ve said before, it won’t happen overnight but the work put in now will undoubtedly pay dividends as the industry moves forwards.
Encouraging also to hear Mr Paice’s calls for the creation of a professional body for farming with AHDB the leading contender to take the role on in a technical and business capacity. It was a ringing endorsement of the organisation and its divisions like EBLEX, acknowledging both the work done on the ground with producers and behind the scenes in developing new trade opportunities. Long may that continue to ensure the industry’s interests and potential is realised.