I am a firm believer that Christmas is a time for family. My wife and I spend time between mine in Derbyshire and hers in Essex.
This year, it was my parents’ turn to host Christmas Day celebrations, and, as I have previously mentioned in this column, it often leads to some debate over the state of farming, while the turkey (a goose this year) is being carved.
The main topic for discussion was Brexit. In fact, once you get my older brother on the subject, it is somewhat difficult to get him off it.
Brexit has been one of several unforeseen events of 2016. Its impact has been somewhat difficult to predict, with the future effects of the decision intangible.
However, some are already being felt and these are likely to become more acute as the year progresses.
One considerable effect we are already witnessing is the burden that Brexit is placing on Defra’s resources.
This is probably not surprising, given that a significant portion of EU legislation is concerned with agriculture, food production and trade of agricultural products. What’s certain is that there are uncertain times ahead, and Brexit will continue to be discussed ad nauseum in the media.
“How we choose to market ourselves will be vital to success, or failure, of our sector”
It is unlikely we will have much more of a clear steer on the consequences of the vote to leave, but we are in the position that we have many potential opportunities, as well as risks.
One such opportunity is the further development of British pork as a brand: export markets will continue to be important.
How we choose to market ourselves will be vital to the success, or failure, of our sector.
Different markets may desire different aspects of what our product has to offer. It may be high welfare, in some cases, or low antibiotic use, in others. However, traceability and provenance is a vital component that needs to be highlighted, as trade negotiations take place.
There may be some hard realities to face in the coming months. We may need to admit that, on a global stage, the UK product is not the cheapest on the shelf. As the NPA has highlighted, the UK pig sector relies heavily on foreign labour to maintain production. Given the current direction of travel, this is something that the industry could lose, and may be one contribution towards higher production costs.
The obvious solution is to promote UK pork’s unique selling points as a premier product. But there is a risk of the industry, or in fact, Government, promising too much.
This really is a case of working smarter, not necessarily working harder! Which is, in fact, my New Year’s resolution to myself this year. Happy New Year.