WHICHEVER way Brexit goes, building business resilience is going to be the key to survival, says the chief strategy officer for AHDB.

Tom Hind, who gave the keynote address at November’s Northern Farming Conference, said last week: “I want to emphasise that the risk of a no-deal Brexit has grown significantly since I spoke in Hexham, because Parliament has failed to ratify the withdrawal agreement.

“AHDB is now more focused than ever on helping farmers prepare for what a no-deal scenario might mean for them, but with Brexit less than 40 days away, what can be done is fairly limited.”

The Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board team had spent the past two years helping farmers try to make sense of Brexit though, and to put their businesses on the strongest possible footing.

Everyone knew by now direct payments were going to be phased out and that the rationale under the new British Farming Policy would be ‘public money for public service’.

But how appreciated the level of self-reliance expected from hereonin? “The Government believes the industry should stand on its own two feet,” he said.

“Some might see targeted interventions to help achieve that, but the industry generally is expected to become more self-reliant.”

If we did, indeed, crash out of the EU and, it would take time for Britain to achieve ‘third country’ status to enable it to resume trading in the single market. Tariffs, border inspections of livestock and health certification were just three among the legion of terms that would have to be agreed.

In the meantime, farmers needed to focus on maximising the resilience of their businesses. Tom said: “Under any Brexit scenario, if a business is in the top 25 per cent of farm business performance, it has the resilience to continue, even if incomes change.”

The key trait among best-performing farmers was that they understood how to minimise costs. “It’s not just variable costs and inputs, it’s understanding the fixed costs too,” he said. “They pay attention to detail.”

They also drew up realistic five-year business plans, benchmarked performance, understood the market, were open to innovation and, above all else, recognised that the customer was king.