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AHDB board sets out post-Brexit strategy
Published:  01 December, 2016

The Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) said it will be working out where levy funds can best add value and have the greatest impact once we leave the European Union. 

It announced that this would be the main area of focus for its three-year AHDB strategy, published on Thursday, 1 December.

Beef & Lamb

In the Beef & Lamb sector, its purpose is to draw out the long-term focus for the English beef and lamb industries to meet specific challenges. This is driven by a need for consistent product and meeting consumer demands and trends.

“The sector is heading into uncharted waters around markets in the wake of Brexit, with little indication of what might happen to farm support after 2020,” said Adam Quinney, Beef & Lamb sector board chair.

“With smaller, more traditional family farms at the heart of the industry, helping ensure the sector remains sustainable was at the forefront of the board’s thinking. We were determined to look long and hard at where levies could add best value for farmers and processors and have the most impact on returns longer term.”

The strategy’s main areas of focus will be: to improve production consistency and competitiveness to deliver a more consistent carcase; to increase consumer demand via a focus on export and market development activities; and to improve the quality of meat through introducing a ‘Quality Standard Mark Plus Scheme’ to the supply chain.

In light of Brexit, there is uncertainty over the domestic and export markets, with the new strategy placing a focus on helping producers understand their business costs in order to position themselves well to respond to market opportunities.

“Understanding costs is now seen as a fundamental part of the knowledge exchange (KE) package, reflected in the fact that AHDB farm economics is not part of the wider AHDB knowledge exchange team,” added Quinney.

“This would be delivered alongside an increased focus on peer-to-peer learning as part of the wider KE uptake delivered through a new network of Focus Farms. These would tackle issues such as maximising forage, use of Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs) and developing a better understanding of how disease impacts on productivity.”

It is estimated that ‘out of spec’ carcases cost the industry £1 million a week. With this in mind, improving producers’ ability to hit specification is considered to be a critical part of the strategy.

A main area of focus for the levy board’s development will be opening new export markets for offal and premium cuts – in particular countries with large import needs, such as China. The draft strategy suggested increasing the weighting of levy funds to export and market access work in 2019-2020.

Increasing spend in the domestic market would help develop existing promotional work in the industry, such as Love Lamb and Great British Beef Week, rather than focusing solely on developing AHDB stand-alone campaigns. Following on from the success of AHDB Pork’s Pulled Pork campaign, the Beef & Lamb counterpart will look at how consumer-facing spend can develop projects aimed at retailer activities.

“The Beef & Lamb board is absolutely determined to ensure it uses those funds carefully to enhance the sustainability of the beef and lamb sectors, and exploit the opportunities that will inevitably present themselves over the next three years," concluded Quinney.

Pork

Meanwhile, in pork, the strategy outlines proposals to build on market intelligence horizon scanning, market analysis and work on exports to prepare and position the sector post-Brexit.

“The AHDB Pork strategy is clearly focused on where the levy can add best value collectively for levy payers, with smarter work in conjunction with industry partners, funding groups and research consortia and tapping into the cross-sector expertise in AHDB,” said Meryl Ward, AHDB Pork chair. “Data collection and management will be critical to benchmarking and measuring progress.”

Ward added that the new strategy would look at how the levy board can make the best use of the €2 million funding for the Pig Innovation Group, allowing the industry to learn and adopt the best practices from Europe.

“The new Agritech Centre of Innovation and Excellence for Livestock (CIEL) is an opportunity to focus industry R&D priorities, recognising the substantial differences between the English and EU industries,” she added. “These new collaborative partnerships should capture opportunities to improve our competitiveness and resilience in the face of price-based competition in a post-Brexit market.”

Ensuring the industry produces employment opportunities, the levy board will look to introduce a new skills framework. It also put forward proposals to develop pig health surveillance to enhance pig health.

AHDB Pork believes price mechanisms for pig producers could be improved driven by research into carcase classification methods and quality measures.

The strategy looks at targeting younger consumers by advertising pork as a versatile meal option rather than a species alternative to other meats. An increased domestic marketing spend of £1m has been proposed to reach these targets.

“Research also shows consumers value origin and ethics after price and appearance when considering meat, so AHDB Pork will continue to defend and promote the image and uniqueness of English pig farming on topics such as production systems and antibiotic use,” said Ward. “We will also develop the collection and communication of Real Welfare assessment data, further building the industry’s reputation for high welfare across all production systems.”