As we start 2019, it is clear that the UK is entering uncharted waters as the Brexit juggernaut rumbles on.

The effects on all of us and especially the poultry industry will be considerable and needs some real preparation if we are to succeed. Our industry has a knack of adapting to change and meeting challenges head on. The 2018 EPIC conference set out to explore our preparations for the next phase we find ourselves in. Our industry cannot afford to wait for politicians to fine tune the Brexit landscape – we have to prepare for tomorrow, today!

The 2018 conference explored how we are planning and preparing for tomorrow, today, as an industry well used to fending for itself. We were fortunate in bringing together a wide variety of informed and entertaining speakers to help us explore these topics, ranging from Government to our own industry and also a wider farming and business environment. We also again invited some more “Young Guns” from our industry to give their perspective as they look forward to a long career in poultry.

We opened with “one of own”. James Hook gave a passionate and optimistic address, without notes, but with an enthusiasm and common sense that set the tone for the whole day. He didn’t underestimate the challenges we have to face but offered some solutions whilst also challenging the following speakers for the day to come up with more answers.

Then followed an attempt to hear from both sides of the political divide first from our Minister of State, George Eustice, rapidly followed by David Drew, the Shadow Farming Minister. Whilst not necessarily a meeting of minds there was a consistent message in trying to come up with a deal that benefited us and the companies that operate both domestically and globally.

Further sessions included the view from NFU in their negotiations with Government, the CEO of Noble Foods on the opportunities for our industry and a broader farming perspective from AHDB.
The Young Gun session demonstrated the depth and potential in our industry with a wide range of individuals not all experienced in public speaking. They were united in their enthusiasm for our industry, again underlined by some qualified optimism for the future.

The conference was rounded off with a wider and insightful presentation from Martin McCourt, the ex CEO of Dyson, who illustrated how businesses should engage with their customers, meet challenges and prepare for the unexpected.

All the days speakers sent delegates home with plenty to think about and some ideas on how to prepare for tomorrow, today.

But before the audience dispersed they attended the closing Conference Banquet, a lavish but relaxed affair as always, rounded off with a 100 mph after dinner address by our guest speaker, Gyles Brandreth.

All in all, EPIC 2018 was one of the best ever and a tough act to follow. However, your committee are already turning their attention to a theme and structure for EPIC 2019, so continue to visit the EPIC website for updates on what we have planned for our industry and join us again, or for the first time, at Celtic Manor in November 2019.

Steve Lister
Chairman, EPIC Conference 2018