Date: 12th April 2017
Venue: Plaisterers' Hall
The 2017 Agricultural Lecture and Dinner - 'British Food in a Global Marketplace’
When the Master and the Clerk chose Plaisterers' Hall as the venue for the 2017 Agricultural Lecture and Dinner it was a bold move - Plaisterers' Hall is one of there largest livery venues in London. But it was a move that paid off - the hall was at full capacity for the event with an attendance of over 300.
Three factors may perhaps explain the success of this event - the first was undoubtably the speaker. Dr David Hughes is Emeritus Professor of Food Marketing at Imperial College London and is not only an inspirational speaker but one of the agricultural industry’s food marketing gurus. He possesses unparalleled knowledge of global food issues and opportunities and travels the world talking to businesses, trade associations, governments and conferences on global developments in the food and drink industry and has become one of the most sought-after speakers in agri-food marketing.
The second factor may have been the topic - ‘British Food in a Global Marketplace’ a subject that is surely at forefront of the minds of everyone in our industry as we battle with the consequences and attempt to capture the opportunities of BREXIT.
And the third factor is that the Annual Agricultural Lecture and Dinner has become for many of the Alumni of the Worshipful Company of Farmers educational courses the chosen event for a course and class re-union. With over 100 Alumni in attendance for 2017 this is the biggest turn-out yet from the group.
The Master - Philip Wynn - has made it clear that he sees education as the core purpose aim of the Company and in his opening address he reiterated his commitment to the development and extension of the Company's educational offer. He thanked all the sponsors of tables including new sponsor for 2017 -Syngenta - and made special mention of the evening's principal sponsor - Frontier Agriculture through whose generous support all of the alumni of the 2017 courses were able to attend the Lecture and Dinner free-of-charge.
Dr Hughes lecture was as good and as engaging as had been anticipated.
He made a series of points about the rate at which the world's demand for food is rising - the world population having doubled in just one lifetime but also pointed out that the biggest spikes in food commodity prices are driven by extreme weather events rather than underlying demand changes. With political events second only to extreme weather events in terms of their effect on commodity prices.
In trying to predict changes to the patterns of global food consumption Dr Hughes identified a very rapid rise in the consumption of legumes and associated this with a matching spectacularly rapid increase in the adoption of a Flexitarian Diet - particularly in the developed economies of the world - exampling things like the flexitarian sausage and the fact that the fastest growing segment in the dairy sector is the non-dairy, dairy.
He predicted that the growth opportunities for meat will be in the emerging markets - where the age old tussle between chicken and fish will be played out. But indicated that the market for UK produced meat protein will not be in these emerging market - where industrialised production will be necessary to get the price down but instead in developed markets where the change will be towards meat with a story rather than meat as a commodity.
With debate swirling around the BREXIT negotiations Dr Hughes opined that there will be good growth in both EU and non-EU markets but not for commodity products - instead his advice was to farm for the adjectives not the nouns. So we grow not just wheat, or farm not just beef but instead concentrate on developing a story behind our output that supports its value through descriptive adjectives - from where, what specific variety grown in what way and to what end.
He told us farmers are becoming fashionable again - because people do now want to know who grew it, where and how was it grown. And if the current trend towards traceability can be extended through the food chain to take in not just the end product but all the inputs to that end product then value can be enhanced for growers who understand how to grasp the opportunity.
After his lecture Dr Hughes too questions from the floor. The Q&A session was followed by an excellent dinner and perhaps for some alumni the most important segment of the evening the opportunity to discuss with fellow alumni and a wider cross section of the industry all that had been heard.
The 2017 Agricultural Lecture and Dinner was the biggest the Company has ever staged. It was an outstanding success and for those already savouring next year's event the date has been conformed as Wednesday 11th April 2018.