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Food and Drink

Allan Wilkinson

Allan is currently Head of Agrifoods at HSBC UK, a role that he has held for the last 7 years. Prior to that, he was Head of Agriculture, his career with HSBC and Midland before that goes back 33 years, always based in the UK. A farmer’s son from North Yorkshire he worked for the Milk Marketing Board before joining the bank. Farming and the food chain have always been in his blood, and they always will be. A Liveryman in the Worshipful Company of Farmers, and proud to be a Trustee of The Prince’s Countryside Fund which does so much good work to particularly assist farming families.

One business success

  • 2021 was a phenomenal year for my colleagues and me in HSBC who work alongside the UK food and drink sector. We were delighted to welcome a good number of sizeable new businesses to the bank who operate in the sector, obviously in the aftermath of Brexit and of course the various facets of the pandemic. We are really committed to supporting our food and drink sector and it was so pleasing to see such results. Thank you to those businesses involved.

Two challenges for the sector

  • The here-and-now inflation across a number of inputs, particularly energy-related, as well as the cost of labour is the greatest change in the cost base for some time. Ultimately these costs are far higher than anyone’s margins, and it will eventually have to show in further food inflation. There is no real choice to that.
  • Others rightly say that the single biggest long-term challenge is that of sustainability and ‘net zero’ – my second such challenge, however, I see also that as a genuine opportunity.

Three forecasts for the sector

  • First and most importantly – despite the cost of food going up, I do genuinely believe that the UK consumer will place greater value on the tremendous British food that is available to our society and that they will seek more of it.
  • Secondly that the industry, from farm to fork will become more integrated in the drive to deliver net zero, across different businesses and by sharing best practice.
  • Thirdly I do expect that we will all witness a raft of new technology be available to primary producers and processors alike that allows those in the sector and those who consume our products to benefit from these initiatives and the data from them. This is a very exciting time to be a banker who sets out each day to help businesses and their owners to achieve their own ambitions.

March 2022