‘Put more British food on British plates’: AHDB boss

‘Putting more British food on more British plates,’ was Kendall’s recommendation

The UK needs a new farm policy, designed to boost consumption of domestically-produced food, to prepare the sector for life outside the EU, according to the chair of the Agriculture and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB) Sir Peter Kendall.

“If I was looking for an ambition for a new agricultural policy it would be to put more British food on more British plates at each and every price point,” Kendall told a meeting organised by the Provision Trade Federation (PTF) last week.

The AHDB boss highlighted the need for a new UK food and farming policy, following the UK’s historic decision to quit the EU last month.

“We do face a monumental piece of work to rebuild agricultural policy and plan for the future,” he said.

‘Face a monumental piece of work’

“The idea of carrying on with the same traditional [levels of] support is part of the past, not part of the future [after Brexit].”

However, there would be “continued support for ambitious plans”, he predicted.

Setting out the path ahead, Kendall said: “I want to see a food industry that is more dynamic and more responsive to the market.”

The former president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) disclosed he was backing his faith in UK food production with an investment in a new poultry production unit, in partnership with his brother, at the family’s Bedfordshire farm.

But his optimism for the future of UK food production was tempered by an acknowledgment of the greater emphasis likely to fall on market forces when the UK finally left the EU.

“We all know in business that the market will out,” said Kendall. “My concern is that when markets have their way it often has brutal and unintended consequences.”

‘Brutal and intended consequences’

Kendall foresaw a pivotal role for the AHDB in coordinating agricultural research and development and helping farmers to become more efficient. But to deliver that role, it was essential that AHDB levy payers – farmers and processors – “put money into our industry”, he said.

The board also had a key role in helping the industry communicate with one voice to government, he continued.

“And the AHDB has commissioned more work on consumer insight, in order to understand the direction in which consumers’ preferences are moving. Rather than the old message of us selling what farmers want to produce.”

Kendall was speaking at the PTF annual general meeting lunch in London on Tuesday June 28.

Speaking at the same meeting, an EU insider warned that a trade deal between the UK and EU would probably be delayed by east European Member States’ insistence on the rights of their nationals to work in this country.

Read why Kendall’s colleague AHDB chief executive Jane King told Food Manufacture the whole food supply chain would benefit from reform of the organisation she leads.

Meanwhile, last week NFU president Meurig Raymond said the government must not ignore the economic importance of the farming sector. It was “the bedrock of the UK’s largest manufacturing industry, food and drink”, which was worth £108bn and employed 3.9M people.

“NFU Council has today agreed the principles of a domestic farming policy which will now form the basis of the biggest farming consultation in England and Wales for a generation,” said Raymond.

 

Life without the Common Agricultural Policy

“If you look at sectors that have no agricultural support, they are pretty intensive and quite large-scale. Look at horticulture, pigs and poultry. You have quite large structures being developed. From a personal point of view, I don’t think that is where we want to be in British agriculture.”

  • Peter Kendall, AHDB chair

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