It's good to listen...
For the past year or so we have been listening carefully to our industry stakeholders. We have convened our Industry Sector Panels; one representing the Domestic and Export Sector, one representing the Processing and Import Sector and one representing the Consumer and Supply Chain. The Panels have met as individual Panels and have come together twice in a 'pan-panel' format. We have drawn on their insights and expertise in order to shape the structure and content of the next Seafish Corporate Plan. The Corporate Plan is important for Seafish and our stakeholders because it sets out how the Seafish Levy is going to be spent over the next three years 2018-21.
The 40 or so members of the panels from all corners of the Seafood Industry have identified their priorities and their advice has been passed up to the Seafish Board. The Board has accepted the advice and we are now in the final stages of shaping up the plan accordingly. While that detail is being worked on I thought it was a timely moment to share the headlines.
A few items of note:
1) Thriving: There is overwhelming consensus that everyone wants to see a thriving seafood industry in the UK. At the heart of this is a desire to see an upward shift in consumption via both retail and food service channels. Everyone recognises this as a fundamental goal. Some want to be more ambitious than others; is an uplift to two portions per person per week really possible? There are many who would like to think so, even if it might take a decade or two to get there!
2) Challenges: Standing in front of us are a number of challenges that our Panels all recognise. It is these challenges that they are asking Seafish to help tackle. Obviously Seafish isn't going to solve these in isolation but our Panel Members understand that Seafish can, and should, assist where it can. The challenges include:
a. The changing political climate as we exit from the EU;
b. The desire to increase consumption of fish to two portions per person per week over the longer term;
c. Issues with attracting sufficient skilled labour and providing a safe working environment;
d. Balancing the need to secure supply while ensuring we meet consumer demands for supply chain integrity;
e. Ensuring access to information to drive innovation and growth.
3) Flexibility and Agility: The Industry Sector Panels have also asked that Seafish adopts a more flexible approach to the support it offers. They rightly point to a fast pace of change, not least on the political side of things and Brexit negotiations, and they want Seafish to be able to respond when needed and not be constrained by the straight-jacket of a rigid three year Corporate Plan. We are, therefore, deliberately making our Corporate Plan for 2018-2021 more concise than its predecessor so that it is more accessible and more immediately relevant to our stakeholders. The new Plan will, in effect, be a framework based on the key challenges above. Broad budgets will be allocated in line with the Panels' advice and then activities will be identified on an annual basis as needs arise. This change has been welcomed by our industry stakeholders and affords Seafish and industry to be more agile and flexible during the course of the three year plan.
4) Convening Power: Everyone involved with Seafish activities and the support we provide understands the value of the convening power that Seafish offers. Only by bringing people together are we able to make headway in relation to the challenges we face. Only by creating the safe spaces for dialogue to happen does consensus emerge. Only by leaving individual self-interest at the door are solutions for the wider good found. With its new Corporate Plan, Seafish will continue to provide the 'oil in the engine' and with a new mandate from industry I think Seafish is in a better place than ever to add value and support its Stakeholders to achieve their ambitions.
The Corporate Plan is being finalised as I write. The four Fisheries Ministers are looking at the draft plan and we hope to secure their approval in due course. The Plan will go live in April 2018 and we will ensure everyone with an interest hears more about the content of the plan in the New Year.