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Posted on 27/03/2015

‘Britain’s agricultural sector is in a “disturbing” decline,’ warned the National Farmers Union (NFU) last month, with farmers unable to produce enough food to keep up with the country’s growing population.

In the latest report published on its annual conference, the NFU highlighted Britain's inability to feed itself and called on the government to boost investments - particularly in research and development.

The alarming fact is that Britain's self-sufficiency with regards to food has dropped from 80% in 1980 to 62% in 2014 - if we don't do anything about it soon, this drop will continue into the next decade.

In recent years, Britain has moved from a world leader in agriculture to the position of a follower, with government spending on research and development falling since 2007. Despite this, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs states that the UK food industry was in good health last year, generating a record £103bn - "more than cars and aerospace combined".

If we look at the humble potato, we see that consumers are buying less now than they were a year ago - potato consumption out-of-home was down 3.3% in September 2014 versus the previous year, with retail down 1.2% - while there has also been a rising cost in production for farms.  In fact, the total cost of potato production in the UK is up 65% since 2005 (12.5% in the last 5 years) and The British Potato Council predicts this to increase significantly long term.

These figures make it even more important for the potato and farming industry in Britain and the rest of Europe, to press their respective governments to invest in agriculture and promote important arable crops. This should help maintain self-sufficiency in the years to come - particularly important as the global population increases.  

The responsibility however is not just confined to central and local governments, but should also include public and private organisations. In today's dynamic business climate, organisations are facing many new challenges; the shelf life of successful products, brands and strategies for example, is constantly diminishing, requiring faster development cycles, while the destabilising forces of technology and globalisation mean that every disruptive business model is a starting point for someone else to develop the next one.

As the pace of change continues to increase, the need for a new kind of leadership is rapidly emerging. Leaders must act with an entrepreneurial mindset, summoning the presence and clarity to respond to uncertainty and volatility. We need to collaborate with multiple stakeholders across industries to make sure that we develop sustainable support structures for our dietary needs today and the needs of generations to come.

I am always happy to receive any feedback/suggestions/ideas you may have, so please feel free to get in touch with me directly at m.essa@aviko.com or through our customer service centre at ukhelpdesk@aviko.com

Mohammed Essa
General Manager
Aviko UKI