Last year I talked about uncertainty, but the issues we face haven’t changed a great deal.
Our trading relationship with the EU is far from perfect as border friction continues to add cost for our exporters, and when combined with the challenges of securing enough labour it's been a difficult 12 months.
Lack of clarity
A long-term solution needs to be found to encourage more workers into the food industry. At farm level, the changes to farm support and lack of clarity of what will follow does not provide our sector with the confidence it needs to invest for the future.
While beef and lamb prices have remained largely buoyant, it is where prices need to be.
Input costs are rising at an alarming rate with fuel, fertiliser and feed prices going through the roof.
I’m pleased to say that red meat sales have performed well, as consumers continue to support British when visiting supermarkets and butchers. My hope is that we see the same level of support from the food service sector.
The risk is that we see increasing volumes of imported product resulting from new free trade deals with Australia and New Zealand.
I’m urging government to seriously consider how quota volumes are managed. However, we have a lot to learn from these export-focused countries.
The board is developing an export strategy that identifies our priority markets, and the actions needed by government to ensure we establish the commercial relationships to enable exports to follow.
Speaking up for the sector
To conclude, our greatest challenge is climate change and how we speak up for the livestock sector.
The message coming out of COP26 is that we must phase out coal and fossil fuels, and perhaps the opportunities associated with agriculture are more positive than negative.
I remain convinced that grazing livestock production is part of the solution, but we must all take steps to improve our productivity and to use our precious resources as efficiently as possible.