HRH The Countess of Wessex is new President of The Royal Smithfield Club
House of Lords Forum plots way forward for livestock and red meat sector
Club announces a range of initiatives for the coming year
HRH The Countess of Wessex has become the new President of The Royal Smithfield Club. The Countess has become increasingly involved with the agricultural world in recent years and supports a number of farming organisations. Club Chairman William Bedell said: “We are honoured that Her Royal Highness has agreed to be our President and we look forward to working with her in what will be a year of important developments for the Club.”
In her first engagement as President of The Royal Smithfield Club, Her Royal Highness attended a red meat industry supply chain forum at the House of Lords, London, hosted by Baroness Byford and organised by the Club.
The Forum, held to discuss key industry issues and how to address them, was attended by more than 70 representatives of the livestock and red meat sectors including key lobbying organisations, levy boards, Red Tractor and Farm Assurance schemes, processors, manufacturers, breed societies, genetics companies, and show societies.
The event was the first of a series of initiatives by the Club that heralds a new era in which it will take on a more active and overarching sector role, and one which will go hand-in-hand with the Club’s core focus on promoting best practice in the production of quality livestock for the British meat industry.
West Country farmer John Dracup was introduced in his new role of Industry Strategy Director for the Club. Setting the scene at the Forum he said: “Our main aim is to unite the red meat supply chain to ensure a consistent message reaches our customers.
“In order to achieve this, we will be challenging and engaging with our industry, which will have to evolve considerably during the coming months and years.”
Recognising that the industry is going through unprecedented change, combined with substantial challenges that need to be addressed, he said a stronger voice is needed.
“The industry already has a number of professional, proficient organisations operating well within their sector,” he said. “As an independent, credible voice the Royal Smithfield Club will provide a platform which brings everyone together, giving them the opportunity to freely discuss an industry position on key issues, specifically focusing on red meat.”
High among the issues discussed at the Forum was the impact of Brexit on UK livestock and meat industry business including the availability of non-UK labour, certification and control procedures for meat, and support payments to farmers. The range of issues and challenges faced by the UK red meat sector were addressed at the Forum by four keynote speakers: Nick Allen, Director British Meat Processors Association; David Gunner Chief Executive Dovecote Park; David Hall North West Regional Director NFU and Donald Biggar, Club Trustee followed by a summing- up from Neil Parish MP, Chairman of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Select Committee.
Mr Dracup said: “Underlying all these issues are the continued pressures the industry faces on health, welfare and meat consumption, as well as concern that the messages around emissions are being misinterpreted and used for other agendas.
“The UK is producing to some of the highest animal welfare and meat production standards in the world, and we need to communicate this.”
Mr Dracup’s new role will see him working with Richard Saunders who was appointed Secretary of the Club in succession to Geoffrey Burgess last summer. Mr Burgess has now taken on the role of Club Deputy President.
Over the coming year the Club will be working to:
• provide a credible commentary on the changes that are needed to ensure the red meat supply chain remains high quality and efficient
• challenge regulations, laws and developments that are considered detrimental to the future development and direction of the sector
• work with industry organisations, research bodies, scientists and universities both in the UK and around the world to raise awareness of new developments, initiatives and opportunities for the sector