Agri Food

Interview with Sasha Kerins on Gender Diversity

“Gender diversity is key if we are to create innovative, agile teams with diversity of thought”

What is the mood in the agri-food industry right now with just a month to go to Brexit?

We have been working with many businesses across the island of Ireland. Some have very detailed plans and have begun implementing them already. Other businesses are scenario planning as to how their business will

be affected and the interim measures that need to be put in place. This is being badged a “no regrets decision” approach which regardless of Brexit are decisions that will positively affect the business.

Do you think agri-food companies are adequately prepared for a hard Brexit?

Research carried out by Grant Thornton across the UK and Ireland indicated that only 56% of businesses have implemented contingency plans or have a plan ready to action as required. Large-scale agri-food businesses seem to be well prepared and have been looking at a number of options such as moving more of their operations to the UK to avoid the potential border/tariff issues, focusing on alternative markets and looking at related product diversification. However, SMEs have been slower to react.

What can agribusinesses do to prepare themselves for the shock of a hard Brexit?

It is paramount businesses do not sit and wait for politicians to reach agreement but rather plan for all eventualities. We have identified three main phases of planning; preparation for a no deal to ensure continuity of business post 29 March; disruption from 11pm on Brexit day, businesses will need to navigate the immediate disruption to their supply chains, processes, IT and data; adjustment in mid-2019 for businesses to their new environment with cost mitigation measures to reduce the effect of increased tariff s and regulatory requirements.

What steps can businesses take to be more efficient to compete in the global market?

Businesses need to focus on key basic areas, especially in this time of uncertainty; such as protecting their cash flow; insulating balance sheets; retaining and a racting talent; meeting customer needs; and removing unnecessary costs.

What other challenges are agri-food companies facing today?

Consumers are becoming more savvy and the lifecycle of food trends is getting shorter. Therefore, more investment in R&D is required to constantly meet emerging consumer demands.

Given we have International Women’s Day this week, do we have enough women in leadership in the agri-food industry?

Gender diversity is key if we are to create innovative, agile teams with diversity of thought to enable effective solution building. Grant Thornton’s global Women in Business Report shows a real shift this year in the percentage of women in leadership to 29% globally, a 5% increase on the prior year.