At the recent AF Roadshows around the country I have spoken about the need for agriculture to understand the entire supply chain and not to view itself in some glorious isolation. It is only by fully appreciating the entire supply chain that true knowledge is gained.
From knowledge and understanding can come true partnerships and from such partnerships value is created. We are at a moment in time where attitudes need to change. Our wonderful industry is about to go through some seismic changes to its structure, its economic viability, and, to its ultimate success.
We are part of the food chain, an agri-food sector. The statistics from the agri-food sector are impressive:
- The sector is worth well over £120 bn of value added to the UK economy
- It employs over 4 million people
But why does agriculture still see itself in isolation?
We need to build stronger partnerships, we need to understand where the value is created, and we need to make sure that agriculture is getting a share of the value that allows re-investment in capital and people.
At AF, we are working tirelessly to build such partnerships. By providing greater certainty and planning to our strategic supply chain partners, we create value. In return, we expect the right product, advice, service and price. By following such an approach we are providing value to our members. This has been highlighted by our recent announcement of £1m of rebates on crop protection this spring.
Agriculture also needs to stop talking just to itself. Far too often farmers tell farmers (in various mediums) that they are either brilliant or how tough and unfair things are. A great example of this is the debate around veganism. I have read far too many angry comments about this public demand (and it is a public demand, albeit incredibly small), but I am yet to read anyone saying “I’m going to sell to this market”.
It’s about a change of mindset. For those growers involved in rearing livestock, we should concentrate on selling positive messages to the vast majority who will remain omnivores. Control what you can control, don’t worry or spend valuable time on things that aren’t in your sphere of influence
There are four mega trends happening as we speak (and not one of them is connected to Brexit or trade policy):
- Global environmental pressure
Given these four mega trends, agriculture has an incredibly bright future as it is the only industry that can have a positive impact on all four areas. But we need to become world class, we need to attract the very best people into the industry, and we need to connect fully across the entire supply chain.
AF is doing its bit, but our core business needs to get bigger to ensure we have the leverage and influence required. I am frustrated that other similar businesses do not have the same level of ambition.
If you know fellow farmers in other farmer owned groups, get them to ask the respective boards why they aren’t looking to merge or grow. Being comfortable and not wanting to upset the status quo is no longer a suitable answer.
The future is bright but only if we#re prepared to work for it and to grasp the opportunities that will come along.