A combine harvests a cereal crop

A fair wind for the farming industry if they keep their eye on the ball

Attending the Eblex Outlook 2012 conference is an easy and well worth way of learning about the market trends in the Agri/ Food sector in half a day. It also reminds all of us that keeping ourselves updated on what our customers want is essential for any market facing business if it is to prosper.

Alan Wilkinson from HSBC confirmed what a lot of delegates were thinking which was that being told to be upbeat by the organisers and then talking about the UK economy was probably not a good idea

Certainly 2011 deserves its name as the “year it all went wrong”.  Nevertheless his bank’s data tends show that contrary to Treasury data, the UK is probably not in recession and most sectors of the UK’s farming industry are set fair for growth in coming years. This is not to say that the UK can match the Far East where growth has been at 6 – 8% for at least the last 3 years and likely to stay that way. Their view is that by 2050 India not China will be by far the biggest economy in the world. This year for the first time the UK’s sale to BRIC’s countries will outsell those to Ireland, but interestingly will still not outsell the EU “basket case” counties such a Greece known as PIGS!

“This is the longest recovery that has ever been” he says, and I can well believe it.

His view was supported by Giles Quick of Kantor, a market research company, who showed why Tesco have hit a brick wall at 30% market share (because 90% of citizens already shop there, so growing the business is very difficult), whereas Lidl and similar companies are booming because the issue in Food is now price, price and price!

Interestingly, In 1980 the average family took 60 minutes a day cooking their meals; this year it is down to 34 minutes, so convenience is dictating what everyone buys to cook. Healthy food is still important but less so than it was hence the problems in shifting as much organic food in recent times. Most upsetting, according to their research, is that the most frequently taken “meal” in the UK is a sandwich.  Curry is 10th on the list!

For farmers, they should ignore these market trends at their peril. Cuts of meat sold to supermarkets need to be lean and quick to cook if they are to sell and cooking times are only going down. The average consumer spends on average longer voyeuristically watching cooking programmes on TV than actually cooking real food these days, which says a lot about the average consumer!