2013-07-17  facebooktwitterrss
Driving Efficiency and Growth in UK Agriculture

The latest Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Annual Report and Accounts (2012/13), recently laid before UK Parliaments and Assemblies, highlights the levy board’s investment in innovation, its work in developing export markets and inspiring consumers in home markets, as well as savings on its own operational costs.

In the year up to March 2013, AHDB spent nearly £2.9 million more on direct levy payer activities than it spent the previous year, with 87.5p in every pound of its £64.5 million total income invested in front-line levy payer support.

Suckler herd

photo © Jennifer MacKenzie

Working together, both across its own six sector-focused operating divisions (covering beef & lamb, cereals & oilseeds, dairy, horticulture, pigs and potatoes) and with external partners, is being shown to achieve a significantly better return on the investment of levy funds.

AHDB also continued its record of generating annual savings of around £3.8 million on operational support costs (IT, finance, office costs, human resources, etc) compared to the costs of running the former levy bodies*.

“Our cross-sector commitment to industry innovation was firmly demonstrated by the fact £22.1 million, more than one third of AHDB’s income, was invested in research and putting associated on-farm science into practice, in 2012/13,” said AHDB Chief Executive Tom Taylor.

“This included 39 joint-sector-funded R&D projects, valued at £15 million, which brought shared sector benefits at reduced cost. Many of these projects are featured in the report but one example is that of our three crop divisions sharing the cost of a project on insecticide resistance management in the peach-potato aphid – each sector will benefit from the work but for a third of the cost to each levy of doing it alone.”

AHDB’s export development work helped make food and drink one of the few growth sectors of the UK economy in a year of significant downturn. For example, after the levy board helped get agreement on export certificates with China, pork exports grew to become 25% of UK production, worth in the region of £275m. This made for a return to similar levels of exports experienced before overseas markets were withdrawn following the UK outbreaks of Classical Swine Fever (back in 2000) and Foot and Mouth Disease (in 2001).

“Through our £4.4 million programme of targeted export development work, AHDB played a key role in helping UK agri-businesses secure greater rewards overseas – international trade was valued at more than £5.5 billion in 2012 for beef, lamb, pigmeat, potatoes and cereals; this represents around 46% of total UK food and drink exports,” added Tom Taylor.

Meanwhile, the horse meat scandal of early-2013 presented an opportunity to communicate positive messages about quality assured meat from Britain. This encouraged an upturn in the number of people buying fresh, assured meat.

Another major development of 2012/13 was the work that went into the June 2013 launch of the Feeding the Future report that set out the industry’s research priorities for the next 20 years. AHDB formed part of the report’s Joint Commissioning Group, along with the National Farmers Union (NFU), NFU Scotland, the Royal Agricultural Society of England (RASE) and the Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), supported by the Technology Strategy Board.


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