British farmers will face several tough years of trade if they are to eventually become successful global exporters.
That’s the view of one global food market expert, who was speaking at leading Midlands law firm Wright Hassall's Annual Agricultural Event - which was held online this year - and explored what the future holds for British agriculture now that a Brexit Deal has been secured.
John Giles, Divisional Director of Agri Food at consultancy firm Promar International, said that although British farmers can now trade freely with any country across the globe, the benefits of doing so won’t be felt immediately.
He commented: “The best agricultural exporters have a balanced portfolio of several key markets - along with some secondary markets - where they have spent years building up their knowledge base and relationships. It doesn’t happen overnight.
“Exporting is a long-term commitment, so before any British farmer begins exporting, they should really be asking themselves ‘is my business cash flow resilient enough to absorb some bad periods of trade?’.
“This question is important, because in a way, it is similar to injecting upfront investment into a new business that is trying to drum up custom.
“A British farmer can have the greatest product going, but if a competitor is cheaper then they are likely to win the custom in some countries, where cost is king and trumps everything else.”
Other agricultural experts in attendance included Kevin and Jane Fuchsbichler, who run an arable and livestock farm in Western Australia, and Duncan Andrews, Director at Cotswold Farm Park.
Jane, whose farm exports 95 per cent of its produce, added: “Exporting can be a volatile business, so any farmer that is considering exporting needs to be able to adapt their budgeting techniques - particularly keeping costs down wherever possible - so that their business is able to cushion the financial impact of a potential bad year.
“It’s also important for British farming exporters to remember that their competitors are across the world - not necessarily next door, which is why it can take a while to find the right formula.”
Duncan, who with BBC Countryfile presenter and farmer Adam Henson, has developed and diversified Cotswold Farm Park into a family-friendly destination, commented: “The immediate priority for our business is to serve and support our local markets - which is going to be crucial for us as we take a step back to properly analyse what opportunities there may be for us under the Brexit Deal.
“British farming has historically been a heavily subsided industry - which is on course to change in the future now we have left the EU - so as an industry we are very much at the beginning of a steep learning curve on how to generate other ways of income.”
The Annual Agricultural Event was chaired by Wright Hassall Partner, Joel Woolf, who specialises in offering strategic advice to rural and business clients.
Joel commented: “Although we have already undergone a Brexit transition period, the next year is really the time that British farmers will be finding their feet and truly understanding how the Brexit Deal is going to impact them.
“The webinar provided some really useful insights into what farmers can expect if they do decide to diversify their reach overseas for the first time or beyond the EU.”