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3 January 2018

A revolution in agricultural productivity will be needed – and fast – if we are to capitalise on Brexit, continue to feed ourselves as a nation, and protect the environment.

The warning comes in a bold new paper from the leading food and farming knowledge house, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, published on the eve of the agenda-setting Oxford Farming Conference 2018.

Currently, Britain is falling significantly behind major competitor countries in the rate of growth in productivity – with pace-setters like the USA and the Netherlands growing productivity three times faster than we are domestically.

A yawning productivity gap – worth over £4.3bn in lost GDP between 2000 and 2013 alone – has opened up, as a result of the country failing to keep pace.

The report – Driving productivity growth together – calls for industry to seize the opportunity of the Government’s new industrial strategy and forge a new partnership to drive what AHDB calls ‘a dramatic acceleration’ in productivity growth.

The AHDB sets out a five-point action plan, which has at its core increased industry collaboration and partnership to drive lasting change:

  • a nationally coordinated strategy for research and innovation that  favours near-market programmes that will unleash productivity gains in the immediate term
  • a new, What Works centre for agriculture and horticulture that will act as a beacon for evidence-based change on farm
  • a mandate for AHDB to co-ordinate Knowledge Exchange programmes ensuring consistent, joined-up and sustained delivery of best practice across all sectors
  • a new, national skills framework for farmers and growers, with career-long professional development
  • a boost for farmer-to-farmer learning and stretch targets for the uptake of benchmarking and farm management skills

Commenting on the recommendations, the report’s author, AHDB Chief Strategy Officer Tom Hind, said:

“If key stakeholders are willing to join forces across industry, academia and training providers, in the context of the Government’s new industrial strategy, together we can drive a real change in productivity growth.”

“Productivity growth is of critical importance for two fundamental reasons. Firstly, productivity plays a significant part in our industry’s overall competitiveness, which is critical if we want to operate in increasingly globalised markets. This matters both because we want our industry to seize market opportunities at home and abroad and we want the industry to become less dependent on direct support as we move away from the Common Agricultural Policy.

“Secondly, productivity is also a key driver in overcoming the environmental challenges we face. Productivity and environmental responsibility go hand in hand.

“The UK has some of the most productive, dynamic and inspirational farming and growing businesses in the world.  Yet, as a whole, our industry’s rate of productivity has grown more slowly than in some of our major competitors.

 “We want this report to be the start of an urgent national debate on productivity growth. AHDB will play its part, and we will be drawing in ideas and inputs from across the supply chain and multiple partners to forge the quickest and best solutions.”


Download the report here:

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