What a year 2020 has been as we’ve all had to adapt the way we live our lives because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
At the time of writing, the uncertainty posed by the end of the transition period hangs heavy over the red meat sector. Will we be able to export our beef and lamb to the EU without facing huge tariffs from 1 January 2021?
We know that the way we’ll be trading with Europe will change and our processors and exporters will need time to get to grips with the new processes and paperwork. But I do know that European customers want our product; I’ve seen that first hand when I took my board to Rungis market in Paris last year. The quality, consistency and price point of our lamb would not be replaced easily.
I’m also keenly aware that any new trade deals the UK government makes will present some opportunities, but also pose a number of risks for our sector. It’s clear that some big red meat producing countries want greater access to our market.
The future of farm support hangs over the livestock sectors too. Next year will be the first we see BPS payments reduced. Whilst the NFU works to influence what follows, we know that we must all look at where we can take our businesses. For me it's about focusing on productivity. The key is data; measure, monitor, review and then be prepared to make changes to the management of your business. The focus on productivity in such a diverse sector is probably one of the greatest challenges, but it also presents the biggest opportunities to drive forwards our credentials as one of the most climate friendly and efficient producers of quality beef and lamb in the world.
Finally, British retailers have stepped up and shown their support for UK farming during the coronavirus lockdown, which has undoubtedly helped to maintain trade this year. And I’d also like to thank the livestock marts; keeping them open has provided much needed competition in the supply chain. Ultimately, I want to see more British food on British plates - let’s hope we can build on that in the year and years ahead.
Chair, livestock board