Thursday, December 14, 2017

British Potato 2017 navigates post-Brexit path for sector

October 31, 2017 by  
Filed under Crops

Farmers, researchers and the supply chain will share centre stage at British Potato 2017 as the sector prepares to up its game post-Brexit.

This month’s BP2017 event on 22-23 November is the first time the biennial exhibition has been held since the UK voted to leave the European Union. Seminar programme organisers AHDB Potatoes will use it to encourage closer collaboration as the industry gears up for Brexit.

To stimulate discussion and develop closer relationships between growers and other members of the supply chain, the programme will include a panel debate on the “Big Brexit Opportunity” – with contributions from all sectors of the potato industry.

Change on horizon

AHDB potatoes strategy director Rob Clayton said: “BP2017 provides a chance for the industry to pull together, discuss opportunities and take stock of the current challenges faced. This considered approach is needed to prepare to move forward, with rapid change on the horizon.

Opportunities must be taken quickly, added Mr Clayton. “Those who do nothing risk being left behind as change carries on. We are trying to encourage farmers to wake-up and avoid ‘sleep-walking’ into Brexit.”

Held at the Harrogate Showground, the exhibition is the only event attended by the entire industry, from “seed to shopping trolley”. The Brexit panel will include Alex Godfrey, chairman of the NFU Potato Forum, who grows potatoes for the pre-pack market.

Mr Godfrey, who also farms pigs, peas and arable crops, said: “Forward thinking potato growers will be looking to the opportunity Brexit presents to replace potatoes imported from within the EU with British grown product.

Labour and trade

“However, labour shortages and risk associated with a mishandled ‘lift and shift’ of EU crop protection rules into UK law, could deny us access to activities and trade.  But if it heralds the start of a move to a new science-based, risk-based regime then we will all benefit.”

There will be 11 seminars held in total at the two-day event, which will see over 6,000 potato professionals through its doors. The Brexit debate and a session looking at other major potato-producing countries aim to examine ways the industry can remain competitive.

Mr Clayton said: “Along with our review of competitiveness we will consider how our customers are changing, be they consumers at the supermarket or the nation states that buy British seed potatoes through our existing EU trade agreements.

“We will call on researchers to take the stage with growers as we consider productivity. And our team will be on hand to discuss market volatility, as we continue to lead the debate and engender discussion on the key issues that affect us all.”

For full details about the exhibition, visit bp2017.co.uk

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