A new report concludes that UK agriculture can prosper through global food trade after the UK leaves the European Union.

The report, Rising to the Challenges: a Food Policy for Global Britain, was prepared by independent agricultural economist Sean Rickard and commissioned by the AB Agri bulk feed businesses – ABN, KW Alternative Feeds and Trident, with support from the National Beef Association, The British Poultry Council and the AHDB.

Leaving the EU will usher in a new era for British agriculture – as profound a change as the 1973 EU entry, with a move from a closed to open trading environment, says Mr Rickard. The UK can prosper if it adopts a clear, deliverable strategic focus to access this trade.

With a growing global middle class – especially in Asia – there will be an increasing demand from these more affluent consumers for food with “credence attributes” – guarantees of provenance and ethical production standards. The UK can already differentiate its offer to the world market through issues such as animal welfare, food safety and sustainability, and it is moving to raise farm productivity and using less resource.

But delivering the credence attributes to a wider world market will require guarantees along the whole feed/farm/food supply chain, which will inevitably lead to more vertical partnerships, as already seen in the Netherlands which is a successful exporting nation.

In turn, this will drive greater scale in farm businesses to meet the complexity, with closer working with suppliers and advisers to use the findings from the UK’s world class research sector. Productivity needs to increase, with more investment in biotech and precision technologies as labour becomes a constraint. Workers will need to be highly skilled which calls for investment in training and education.

Mr Rickard sees a future where increased productivity and sustainability improves UK competitiveness in the global market, leading to a better food trade balance, greater self-sufficiency and food security.

ABN commercial director Danny Johnson says the report aligns with the ABN vision of becoming a trusted advisor to pig and poultry farm businesses. Technology will bring substantial improvement to farm productivity and standards – suppliers will be an important part of the team approach in delivering a total farm package.

Richard Cross of KW says the new era will accelerate the trend to fewer milk producers with bigger dairy herds. These managers will need enhanced management skills to run bigger teams and more complex businesses. They will also need greater support from their suppliers in providing trusted advice to raise productivity and sustainability – especially reducing greenhouse gas costs of production. The circular economy recycling food industry co-products will be important.

“UK farming is standing at the threshold of a one-off opportunity to trade on our strengths in welfare standards, traceability, sustainability and credence attributes,” notes Simon Heath, managing director of KW Alternative Feeds, Trident and ABN. “To do this, we need to become more internationally competitive, and that means getting more productive.

“We believe there has never been a better time to address these global challenges and position the UK at the forefront of our industry worldwide. Together, we can help drive this exciting new future for the UK’s dynamic food and farm businesses,” he concludes.