‘Hope for the best; plan for the worst’: How British tillage experts are planning for Brexit

UK cereal farmers are being urged to proactively plan for Brexit and not to “wait and see” what happens.

Tillage farm incomes could drop by as much as 103%, putting many farmers in a loss-making situation, a new report by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) warns.

In London, farmers in the cereals industry were urged to get “fit for the future”, as potential realities of Brexit emerge.

AHDB’s annual Grain Market Outlook Conference underlined the influence of Brexit on the future of the cereals and oilseeds industry.

AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds chairman Paul Temple said the industry could ride the wave of change by resisting the temptation to “wait and see”, instead urging farmers to understand the potential challenges and adapt accordingly.

We are in an exciting period of history. It’s really easy to feel lost and inclined to sit back and see what happens, but Brexit success will be about facing and managing change and – most definitely – about being competitive.

The event, held in London, saw the launch of AHDB’s most recent horizon analysis – ‘Brexit scenarios: an impact assessment’. The report paints a challenging picture for UK cereal producers in a range of possible trade and policy scenarios, particularly if they fail to address productivity issues.

For cereals, the scenarios used by AHDB to model effects on farm-business income saw a fall of between 9% and 103% – putting businesses into a potential loss-making situation.

But it also shows that farms in the top 25% of performers are best able to weather the effect of any of the scenarios.

AHDB senior analyst Sarah Baker, who co-authored the report, said: “There is a lot out of growers’ control – but if they focus on the things they can control in their businesses, this should be a good strategy to get ready for Brexit and not only survive but thrive.”

These, detailed in post-Brexit prospects for UK grains, include a whole-chain approach to driving competitiveness, getting to grips with product niches and driving improvements in performance through bench-marking.

AHDB strategy director for Cereals and Oilseeds Dr. Martin Grantley-Smith added: “The results of our analysis don’t make comfortable listening for cereals and oilseeds specialists. While it concentrates on the impact on farm businesses, it is relevant to all businesses in the supply chain as it affects the UK supply base.

“There are solutions, particularly within supply chains, to manage market volatility. But we are concerned the industry is slow to accept the change around Brexit and equally to grasp the opportunities it presents.”