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Cambridge Professor of Agriculture

My World 2021

My world: June 2021…

This is part of a series of articles where our contributors describe how they think things will look a year from now.

Looking back over the last 15 months, it still seems incredible what has happened here in my country and worldwide. The impact on lives across the globe will last for many years to come. Yes, our economy is recovering but there is a long way to go with it after such a severe recession.  Many businesses have gone, employment remains at extremely high levels and there is much more caution in the investment market. There has been much hardship and tragedy but there are some positives both in the way I now approach my working life and for the agricultural sector.

The period of lockdown and isolation made me re-evaluate my working practices. I discovered that technology can make productive meetings possible without the travel, saving time and improving effectiveness. It also made me better at establishing priorities, focussing even more on what really matters. In our fast moving world, we can all become carried away with the importance of the moment, immediate access with ever increasing technology and not reflect on what really matters both personally and in our work. It has increased the importance that I put on personal relationships building for long term not short term gain.

The crisis also has had positive impact for agriculture here in the UK. There is greater realisation that home food supply is important, not to be taken for granted, and that food security depends on a thriving national industry with strong supply chains and quality standards in production method. Global food chains over the years have become ever more complex with increasing food miles. This is not only expensive but also in many cases difficult to justify environmentally.  We all like choice but at what cost? We need reliable sustainable supplies of food at known and high standards. During the crisis, many people discovered local produce sources and their advantages and many suppliers found new ways of making their local produce more accessible. It is pleasing that some of this has been sustained with consequent economic opportunity for farming.

I am pleased to see policy discussions on going on ways of supporting UK agriculture. The central focus is still on public funds for public goods but accompanied by a growing recognition that, as well as meeting environmental and sustainability targets, we need to ensure the viability of production agriculture to assure our supplies. The BREXIT deals have been struck and despite the doom prophets, it has not been that bad. Of course there still remains decisions and details but the government have worked hard despite all the other challenges created by the pandemic. Yes it went past the original deadline but understandable.

Global trade discussions continue. There remains lessons to be learnt from the pandemic and the need to ensure there are mutual benefits and not over dependency. This is true for food supplies. We remain a net importer but must ensure security of supply and appropriate quality. The pandemic has had the same impact on governments as it has on me – the need to seek long term sustainable food chains and not just short term gain.

My predictions for June 2021:

UK in recession : no

My World 2021

About John Moverley

John Moverley

John graduated in Agriculture and was awarded the Wood Prize for best student in the subject and a College Scholarship. After holding a research fellowship and lectureship at Nottingham University, John’s subsequent career has spanned the public, private and charitable sectors with 20 years at chief executive level. John has held numerous regional and national posts and his last full time post was as Chief Executive of the Royal Agricultural Society of England. Current roles include chairman of the Amenity Forum, a Forestry & Woodlands Advisory Committee and Mercia Community Forest. He is a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Societies and the Institute of Agricultural Engineers and holds honorary Fellowships at both the University of Central Lancashire and Myerscough College and his chair is at De Montfort University. In 2004, he was awarded the OBE for services to agriculture and education and has recently been elected President at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, for the 2018/19 academic year.

Articles by John Moverley

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