Magazine article Management Today

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Magazine article Management Today

Like MT in Print? Check out Our Website for a Daily Fix

Article excerpt

You don't have to wait a month for your next dose of MT's sharp, insightful and witty take on the wonderful world of business. There's plenty more online every day at managementtoday.com. Here are some tasty titbits from the past few weeks to wet your whistle[QQ].

MEET THE WELSH DAIRY FARMER WHO'S MILKING CHINA

Laurence Harris has built his family farm into a multimillion-pound business

Lately the British dairy industry has been under the cosh. Pressure from supermarkets and a general slump in commodities have pushed milk prices as low as 20p per litre, the lowest level since 2007, and the number of dairy farmers has halved since 2002.

But for one farmer in west Wales, business is booming. When Laurence Harris started in 1970 the farm had 150 acres, now it has over 3,000 The seeds of its rapid growth lie in the 1990s, when Harris decided to switch to organic farming. 'We were putting more and more pesticides and fertilisers on the land as we were getting less and less for what it produced.'

But Harris says you can produce only two-thirds as much on the same amount of land as with non-organic farming.

'If a crop is looking rough, it looks rough, whereas in modern farming if a crop looks rough, you have a treatment for it,' he says. 'Your agricultural technique has to be sharper.'

And while customers will pay more for organic, there's no guarantee of market stability. 'As soon as we started supplying organic milk, the price fell - so we were a bit miffed,' he says.

So he launched a business named Trioni with a group of neighbouring farmers. They produce organic UHT milk, including flavoured milks, under the Daioni brand name. He has managed to secure listings with Ocado and Abel and Cole and it's thanks to this that the business began exporting.

While exhibiting at a trade show, Harris was approached by a Cypriot company that wanted to buy his chocolate milk. Then brand got picked up by other European distributors and in 2012 Trioni got an enquiry about the possibility of exporting to China and the Middle East.

Things get a lot more complicated when you're exporting beyond the EU, especially when it's food products, and especially to China. Trioni is the first British dairy farm to achieve organic certification to export there.

'We had the Chinese certification body over here to go through the farms, the packing plants, the processing plants, to go through the Chinese certification process,' says Harris. 'That's quite an expensive thing to do for a small business.'

But it's been worth it: Harris expects to turn over pounds 2.5m next year, pounds 1m of which will be exports, and the farm now employs around 20 people, up from four in 2002.

'China's a huge market - I think it has got lots to keep us busy for a bit.' Harris says.

LET'S GET A GOOD WOMAN TO HEAD THE CBI

Editor's Blog: The departure of lifer John Cridland is a good opportunity to shake up the 'voice of UK business'

So farewell, then, John Cridland. The director general of the CBI has announced that he's off to a new gig at the end of the year. Cridland, 54 and a CBI lifer, has done five years in the top job and will end a 33-year career at the lobby group that he joined straight from university.

It is high time a woman took up the role. But the CBI simply cannot go to within its own ranks again to find a new head. John Cridland's deputy, Katja Hall, has been mooted as a replacement, but I spoke this afternoon to an ex-editor and City editor of two national newspapers and neither had any idea who she is. …

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