Dovecote Park CEO talks Brexit at NFU Conference

This years NFU Conference, held at the NEC Centre in Birmingham saw Dovecote Park's Joint Chief Executive David Gunner join a panel of industry experts discussing the potential impact of Brexit on the agricultural sector.
Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st of February saw 1500 delegates, industry figures and government officials gather at the NEC centre in Birmingham for the annual National Farmers Union Conference. 

This years conference was a particularly significant one for us as a business, as the attendees were given the opportunity to hear Dovecote Park’s Joint Chief Executive David Gunner as part of the NFU Recipe for Change panel, which explored the potential impact of Brexit on businesses within and relating to the agricultural sector.  

Brexit of course featured heavily on the agenda of this years event, and was discussed in great detail during the opening address of the outgoing NFU President Meurig Raymond. In front of the Secretary of State for DEFRA, Michael Gove, he opened the Conference with a strong statement about the importance of  the fundamental link between food and farming.

“Food is at the heart of the British countryside; it’s at the heart of the British economy. British farming produces a safe, affordable and high quality supply of food,” said Mr Raymond , stressing the importance of the sector to the British economy, whilst warning that in order to achieve success in a  post Brexit market, ‘We must have frictionless trade with the EU.  "Everything else, including the final shape of any domestic agricultural policy, is dependent on that. And of course, those who advocate a cheap food policy, of scouring the world for low cost food should bear in mind the price paid in traceability, in standards and in the off-shoring of environmental impact."

Dovecote Park’s position as a totally British supplier to Waitrose makes it an important customer for British farmers, and very dependent on the future commercial and financial sustainability of beef farming in the UK. In response to questions from the floor David and his fellow panellists emphasised the need for a new British Agricultural Policy supporting and encouraging a British food supply chain that delivers the highest standards of animal welfare and environmental benefits while ensuring a productive and competitive supply of British food.  

In response to farmer’s questions from the floor, all the panellists expressed concern about the direction of travel for trade policy, the need for improving productivity and efficiency,  and underlined Mr. Raymond’s point regarding the need for ‘free & frictionless trade’, both with the EU and in the wider world beyond. 

Highlighting the need for clarity with the development of a British Agricultural Policy, David pointed out the long term nature of the beef production cycle means that " If we leave the EU at the end of March 2019 the cattle that we need to slaughter will need to be alive now, and farmers will need to know the direction of travel during and after any transition period in order to make production decisions". Dovecote Park ‘s business ethos is based on promoting the highest standards of animal welfare, and  David – expressed concern in response to a question from the floor, that the UK may not be able to hold the line on high standards in post-Brexit trade negotiations with the USA. He emphasised the need for a new Agricultural Policy that puts production first, and suggested there was ‘a great disconnect’ between the strategy on  research in the agricultural sector and its actual delivery and application for  businesses within agriculture and food production’, and the need to address this in the future, if real efficiency benefits are to be unlocked. 

It was a great opportunity to put Dovecote Park’s views and experience in front of the most important national farming forum . Reflecting on the Conference David said “ It was a good opportunity to  contribute to the national debate over the structure of farming and trade relationships post Brexit and put over Dovecote Park’s perspective . It was slightly daunting facing such a large audience , but it was a constructive debate, and we were pleased to participate in Meurig’s last Conference as NFU President. He has been a  strong voice for farming , and a great supporter of the type of famer / processor relationship that Dovecote Park and Waitrose enjoy".