Farming, trade and adapting to change post-Brexit

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags vegan Supply chain

The future of farming in the UK post-Brexit, the growing trend of plant-based foods and trade negotiations outside the EU were standout discussions at this year’s Business Leaders’ Forum, according to chair Geoff Eaton.

Eaton, chairman of Butcher’s Pet Care and New England Seafood International, pointed towards industry’s need for stability throughout the Brexit negotiations and called on the Government to reassure members of the food and drink manufacturing sector.

Commenting on the future of farming in the UK, Eaton said: “What came through very strongly was the complexity that we’re dealing with and the amount of change that’s driven by the current situation post-Brexit, the new Agriculture Bill, availability of labour with the new immigration rules, and all the competing stakeholders that need to be satisfied.

‘We need stability’

“The strong message to Government was that we need stability, we need time to adjust, but there was also a very strong sense in the room that we are changing. The new Agriculture Bill is an ambitious replacement for the common agricultural policy … but we should recognise that change will take time and people need time to adjust and invest to make the change.”

The rise of plant-based foods was also a hotly discussed topic at the forum. Eaton noted the strong arguments for and against the reduction of meat in people’s diets from both health and environmental viewpoints.

Trade outside the EU

He also discussed the potential for trade outside the EU, but again stressed the need for Government to confer with food and drink businesses in order to make deals that were beneficial to the industry.

“The opportunity of having control of our trade negotiations in the future is a long-term opportunity. It is complex, there are compromises and there are millions of unintended consequences that come from negotiating trade agreements,” ​said Eaton.

This year’s Business Leaders’ Forum saw captains of industry share their thoughts on the challenges facing their businesses and the key trends to look out for in the year ahead.

The Government’s roll-out of the National Living Wage and pressure to add more sugar to products are just some of the challenges facing Freaks of Nature founder Peter Ahye, as he revealed in this exclusive video interview.

Meanwhile, the food and drink industry’s focus on environmental and sustainability issues was a welcome surprise​ at this year’s Business Leaders’ Forum, organised by Food Manufacture​, according to the founder of Alara Wholefoods.

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