Andrew Kuyk, who took on the role of PTF director general after Terry Jones left to join the National Farmers Union in April, claimed Brexit presented an “opportunity to decide what the country wants from its food and farming system”.
However, he acknowledged that the fall in the pound following the June 23 referendum had created price pressure along the food supply chain that had yet to be passed on to retailers.
Kuyk said: “If there is one silver lining from Brexit, it is that it gives us an opportunity to ask those bigger questions.
“Take the Common Agricultural Policy, for example. Obviously, Terry will be demanding a guarantee that the UK government pays farmers at least the same as they got from Europe.
“But is that right? Do we want to go on supporting farming in the same way that we have in the past? And if so, what type of farming?”
Kuyk, who specialised in EU affairs while working as a senior civil servant at the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, before joining the Food and Drink Federation as director of sustainability in 2009, used New Zealand as an example of how the farming sector could be transformed.
“Instead of going for the soft landing, they went for the hard landing and stopped paying subsidies.
“Yes, there was grief – but if you talk to any New Zealand farmer now, while they won’t say it was the best thing that ever happened, they have become very competitive.”
Meanwhile, Kuyk claimed the falling pound had put enormous pressure on primary producers.
“While nobody is advocating that food should be more expensive than it need to be, we are getting to the point where real costs are not being properly reflected – and in the short term, it is manufacturers and suppliers that are taking the hit,” he said.
“There is clearly a real limit to how long suppliers can go on absorbing that kind of cost increase and not pass it on. The trading conditions are tough, even without Brexit,” Kuyk added.
Read our Big Interview with Andrew Kuyk in the October issue of our sister publication, Food Manufacture.