As British agriculture continues to change, driven by Brexit, food consciousness, science and technology, industry experts will explore the opportunities for UK growers during the Market Outlook seminar, in the New Era theatre at the Cereal Event (30June/1 July).
David Eudall, head of arable markets at AHDB, will be chairing the event and explained that as global markets evolve, there will be new trading routes for producers, as well as some challenges.
“There’s a lot of volatility caused by global and domestic pressures; from Brexit and the phase out of BPS payments, to the introduction of E10 ethanol and changing consumer demands. But there are a new and reapable opportunities for UK growers.”
Speakers, including Nick von Westenholz, the NFU’s director of trade and market outlook, will discuss the challenges and opportunities that a global market could provide.
“There is no one-size-fits-all and growers will be in a better position to weather volatility and identify opportunities if they know their business inside and out; fully understanding costs, overheads, cashflow and markets,” explained Mr Eudall. “Benchmarking, identifying skill sets, and building good relationships with key contacts will also stand the business in good stead.
“Concerns over the impact of animal agriculture and deforestation caused by soya production has increased sales of foods with assurances and meat and milk substitutes like oat milk.
“Growers need to respond. It might mean introducing new crops, but growers need to remain focused on how they grow and farm to truly capitalise on market demands.”
On 1 July, Roger Vickers, chief executive of PGRO, will chair a seminar on Plant Protein Potential, exploring the value of pulses in the face of changing consumer needs.
“There is a good future for pulses, not only to meet consumer plant protein demands but also to deliver livestock nutrition and environmental sustainability,” said Mr Vickers.
Speakers will summarise the market outlook for pulses and where opportunties lie. The seminar will also look at using pulses within rotations to reduce inputs and improve carbon footprint, as well as discussing disease resistant varieties.
“Pulses’ rooting systems fix nitrogen and create structure that improves soil biology, health, fertility, and friability as well as significantly reducing fertiliser and operational inputs,” said Mr Vickers. “But they are generally undervalued – how do growers put a figure on the value of soil health? This session will help growers identify and attribute value more accurately.
“At present no one is extracting protein from pulses in the UK – but we are hopeful that industry targets to reduce farming’s carbon footprint will drive investment into processing facilities in the UK.”
Scientific research will also offer new market opportunties as Professor Johnathan Napier, from Rothamsted Research, will discuss. He has led a new project using GM technology to replicate fish oils in the oil plant Camelina, which is seen as a possible crop choice for the future.
“Globally we are more conscious of our health and how what we eat affects us – like the benefits of omega-3 from fish oil,” said Professor Napier. “But sustainability in aquaculture is challenged when farmed fish are having to be fed oils to make them rich in these beneficial fatty acids.
“We’ve successfully completed field trials in the UK, Canada, and USA and this has great potential as a UK commercial crop – no specialist equipment is required to cultivate, harvest, or extract oil,” he says. “The oil has also been successfully tested in human and animal nutrition.”
With a crop cycle of under 100 days, the GM-engineered Camelina is promising break crop and while current policy blocks the production of GM and gene-edited crops, Professor Napier urges growers not to be put off.
“Research is showing that these tools have a crucial place in achieving sustainable food production and better human nutrition and health.
“The government and Defra have clearly recognised the potential of these technologies, with gene editing now in consultation and indications of a relaxation around GM policy. The UK is on the cusp of a whole new revolution in terms of growing crops– benefiting the farmer and consumer alike.”