After weeks of speculation, NFU director general Kevin Roberts has finally confirmed he is to step down from the organisation.

Mr Roberts, who was appointed in April 2010, said he was on a fixed-term contract and would leave in 2013. “When I joined the NFU in 2010 I committed to three years with the organisation, with the intention of then starting a non-executive career,” he explained.

Leaving sooner rather than later would give a new director general time to settle in before the retirement of farm leader Peter Kendall, who is expected to stand down as NFU president after eight years in 2014, suggested Mr Roberts.

“It’s a very practical issue around timing of exits for Peter and me,” said Mr Roberts. He added: “Probably the ideal duration would have been four years, but that would have seen me and Peter exiting at exactly the same time.”

Confirmation that Mr Roberts is to step down ends weeks of uncertainty. Rumours he was preparing to leave the NFU circulated weeks ago on the micro-blogging website Twitter. But the NFU declined to comment publicly on the situation until he returned from holiday.

Mr Roberts said the NFU was already in talks with headhunters to determine the recruitment process for finding his replacement. “I know the NFU is in good hands with the tremendous quality of staff it has and look forward to following the way it shapes the future of farming.”

Before joining the NFU, Mr Roberts spent three years as chief executive of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, where he merged five agricultural levy boards into a single organisation and relocated it to Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire.

Previously he was director general of the Meat and Livestock Commission, originally joining in 1993 following a long career in the construction industry. A qualified accountant and football fan, Mr Roberts has also acted as an adviser to a soccer circus set up by Kevin Keegan.