Thursday, 13 February 2014

Positive message from Farming Minister at Outlook Conference

Industry insight and analysis play a crucial role in helping shape key business decisions.

This is why events like the annual AHDB Outlook Conference are such important fixtures in the industry calendar for those in the meat and dairy sectors. This year’s conference at One Great George Street, hosted by EBLEX, BPEX, DairyCo and AHDB Market Intelligence, again hit the mark.

Despite the horrendous weather still affecting swathes of the country and a threatened Tube strike, around 180 delegates headed to the venue in Westminster to hear the latest on how the UK supply chain has responded to recent challenges and the potential impact of Free Trade Agreements on international trade for livestock products.

Representatives from the beef and lamb sector, pig and poultry sectors, and dairy sector, also heard market overviews and forecasts for their respective sectors in the three bespoke breakout sessions. And judging from the positive buzz around the event, the networking, question and answer sessions, and positive anecdotal feedback, Outlook again proved its worth.

From left: DairyCo chairman Tim Bennett, BPEX chairman Stewart Houston, Food and Farming Minister George Eustice, AHDB chief executive Tom Taylor and EBLEX chairman John Cross

This year’s event saw Food and Farming Minister George Eustice deliver the opening address, inevitably covering the very current and very well-documented flooding issue, as well as key industry topics such as the on-going important role for exports and succession planning in the agricultural sector. In a break from event tradition, the Minister also took questions mid-session, giving delegates a valuable opportunity to raise specific issues with him in a key industry forum. And a lot of encouragement could be taken from what he said - “UK food and drink exports are on the up, with an impressive £18.2 billion of overseas orders in 2012, but we could still do more,” and “I want to see more UK produce showcased on the global stage, that’s why we’ve launched the International Exports Action Plan and Food is Great Campaign to help UK businesses export more.”

Food and Farming Minister George Eustice addressing delegates at the AHDB Outlook Conference
The value of any event, of course, is often in the detail. Engaging presentations from the Minister and keynote speakers Connor McVeigh, director of supply chain for McDonald’s UK, on supply chain matters, and GIRA director Richard Brown, on international trade, were well received. As with any presentation, a silent response would’ve been concerning, but the response was warm, prompting further questions and wider discussion among the key industry stakeholders present.

What about the specifics for the beef and lamb sector? A well-attended breakout session chaired by EBLEX chairman John Cross, saw AHDB Market Intelligence senior analysts Debbie Butcher and Paul Heyhoe provide valuable insights into the cattle and sheep market outlook. Both identified challenges facing the industry and, referencing EBLEX's Stocktake Report, what producers could do to potentially improve their bottom line. EBLEX export manager Jean-Pierre Garnier focused on key export market developments and opportunities, highlighting successes, challenges and potential future opportunities in new export markets.

Outlook attracted around 180 delegates
So, is the Outlook Conference, which has been running for over a decade, still relevant to our industry? A delegate list approaching the 200 mark, ministerial endorsement, informative and engaging keynote presentations, plus valuable industry insight and forecasting as we move forwards in 2014. All suggest the answer is undoubtedly yes. 

 If you missed the event all available presentations can be found on the EBLEX website here.

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