Peter Kendall and George Eustice

Peter Kendall (l) and George Eustice at the AHDB headquarters yesterday

Peter Kendall has vowed to raise the profile of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and said it needed to be “right at the heart of growing British agriculture”.

In his first speech as the AHDB’s new chairman, Kendall – who was president of the National Farmers’ Union until February – said yesterday the potential for UK agriculture was tremendous, not least in the form of growing export markets. Farmers therefore needed a levy body that was “ambitious” and “aimed high”.

“AHDB was and must be the vehicle to provide farmers with the tools to grow British agriculture,” he said, speaking at the AHDB’s HQ in Stoneleigh. “Let’s not be afraid to be ambitious and aim high. A sure way of never missing a target is not to have one in the first place.”

The AHDB had a great story to tell, Kendall said, adding he wanted to turn it into a “one-stop shop knowledge centre” for UK farming. “I want to help raise the profile of the great work we do and make sure farmers see the importance of AHDB.”

Kendall acknowledged his appointment had raised some eyebrows, with critics saying “he’s just wandered over from the NFU, and he’ll be doing the same stuff here”.

But he insisted he had a clear, separate vision for his work at AHDB and was “genuinely excited” by his new role.

Defra minister George Eustice welcomed Kendall in his new job and said AHDB had a wealth of expertise but needed to ensure it had a high enough profile. “I think it’s vitally important that AHDB has a strong and modern communications capability.”

Having been aware of its work, he had always wondered “if AHDB could do more to showcase what it does and to ensure that it has a really strong means of engaging with the levy payer”, Eustice added. “Let us get the message out there that this expertise is working hard for the levy payer and is making a real difference.”