Richard Walker  -  Turning British Dairying Optimism into Commercial Reality - Identifying and Exploiting Post Brexit Dairy Export Markets

Young Nuffield (Bob Matson) Award
The Food Chain Scholarship

Having grown up on our family dairy farm in South West Scotland it was always my ambition to return home to progress and drive forward our farming operation. Since returning home to farm six years ago, alongside my brother, we have doubled our productive land area and quadrupled our milk output through developing a progressive and forward-thinking dairy farming business. 

After graduating from the University of Edinburgh in 2011, with a first-class degree in Structural Engineering, I grasped the opportunity to work and travel in New Zealand and Australia. Working on a large, processor owned, “Kiwi-style” dairy unit in Canterbury, New Zealand, during their busy calving and breeding season allowed me to develop great insight into the opportunities and challenges which exist for New Zealand's dairy farmers, processors and exporters. 

Travel, agriculture, rugby, skiing and bagpiping are all passions of mine and through the years I have been fortunate enough to combine these, allowing me to visit many regions of the world such as South America, USA, Canada, China, Syria, New Zealand and Australia, as well as many corners of Europe. The Nuffield experience will allow this list to grow whilst developing my personal knowledge of various global dairy markets as well as delivering benefit to the wider British agricultural industry.

I would like to thank The Food Chain Scholarship for their support in allowing me to pursue this programme of study and travel. Also, I am extremely indebted to The Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust for awarding me the Young Nuffield (Bob Matson) Award which will allow me to further investigate how the British dairy industry can prosper through greater integration with the global market in the context of being out with the European Union.

As a young progressive dairy farmer, it is imperative that our generation is engaged with and positively influences where and how our milk is processed and consumed. Gone are the days of not having to think about our milk beyond the tanker leaving the farm gate. I strongly believe that the British dairy industry's strategy in order to prosper further when leaving the EU has to be export led. Much ambiguity surrounds our country’s post Brexit business landscape, but we as progressive business people need to see beyond any uncertainty and negativity by identifying key export markets and establishing practical ways of exploiting them.

A recent report from the International Farm Comparison Network (IFCN) shows the massive potential for export led growth within the British dairy sector. They predict that by 2030 an increase of 1.2 billion consumers globally and an uplift in dairy consumption per capita from 116ME (milk equivalent of dairy products) to 135ME will require an additional 304 million tonnes (295 billion litres) of milk per year. Brexit provides our industry with a fantastic opportunity to flourish with such an optimistic consumption outlook.

It is inevitable that new trading opportunities will arise as a consequence of exiting the European Union and to maximise our ability to exploit these emerging markets we need to approach Brexit with a positive and progressive mindset as, politics aside, it is our ability to trade globally that will drive our growth and prosperity. Dairy farming within the UK is, in general, well advanced and relatively efficient in producing milk, but effective processing and marketing infrastructure has to be in place to optimise financial returns for the whole British dairy supply chain.