The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has announced the appointment of Graham Wilkinson as its new chief executive officer.

Graham Wilkinson 002 Copy

Graham Wilkinson, incoming CEO of AHDB.

AHDB said that Graham brings a wealth of experience and a proven track record of success from his time at Arla Foods as Global Vice President, Agriculture. During his time at Arla working in both Global and UK roles, he has supported over 8,500 cooperative farmer owners and managed the delivery of commercial milk concepts on farm.

With his experience and knowledge of the supply chain, Graham created an European Agriculture Function within Arla, spanning seven markets. He has also worked in the retailer-side at Tesco PLC, where he strengthened the sustainability of agriculture supply chains in its dairy, beef, pork and poultry sectors.

Having worked throughout the supply chain for his whole career, agriculture has always been part of Graham’s life, working with his grandparents and parents on the family farm in the north east of England. AHDB said that he is "a passionate leader and strong advocate of British Food and Farming."

Nicholas Saphir, chair of AHDB commented: “We are thrilled to welcome Graham to AHDB with his passion for farming, his impressive leadership skills and vast industry knowledge.

“We believe he is the ideal candidate to lead AHDB into the next exciting phase of our growth, putting levy payers at the heart of our work and maximising the impact of the work we do. Thank you to Arla for supporting a smooth transition.”

Reflecting on his appointment, Graham Wilkinson said: “I am excited to join AHDB, an organisation that I have a deep appreciation for and huge respect for its fantastic team.

“My passion is working with farmers, for farmers and with my experience, I see this as a great opportunity to drive greater impact and success for all levy payers to help create a world class food and farming industry.”

Graham Wilkinson is set to leave Arla in the New Year, with the exact timing to be agreed between Arla and AHDB in the coming weeks. He replaces Tim Rycroft, who leaves AHDB in December 2023 after nearly two and a half years.

Bringing a farming background to the role

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS) welcomed AHDB's announcement. A spokesperson for AIMS, Tony Goodger, said: “After many years of CEOs not coming from a farming background we welcome the announcement that Graham Wilkinson, currently global vice president – agriculture at Arla Foods, is to become the new CEO at AHDB.

“It has been our long held view that the CEO needed to be someone of industry stature and who has experience of both the production and processing side of farming."

He continued: “AHDB has appeared to have been in a state of flux over the last couple of years and we trust that Graham will get it back onto the front foot in terms of championing the levy payer. He comes into the organisation at a critical time with the Farming Minister about to decide on whether the levy is increased, something which we urge him to do quickly as the longer he takes to decide the less planning time our members have for the next financial year.

“Reading various media stories about Graham’s work with Arla, especially in relation to bull calves and the beef supply chain we feel sure that he is person whom we can work well work and look forward to meeting with him at the earliest opportunity.”

This story was originally published on a previous version of the Meat Management website and so there may be some missing images and formatting issues.