Covid-19 impact: Sector insight

The Farmer’s perspective

John Henning OBE

So far the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the ability of our agrifood supply chain to deliver for the nation.

Central to this effort is the work of our primary producers who continue to demonstrate their resilience in the face of many challenges – including unfavourable weather, labour supply, market volatility, Brexit uncertainty and of course the current health crisis.

Nationally agriculture utilises 72% of total land in the UK with 300,000 farmers (and 177,000 farm staff) contributing £10.4bn Gross Value Added in 2019 (GVA from entire agri-food industry is £120bn) with family farming businesses central to the structure of our industry.

Day in and day out farmers up and down the country get on with tending livestock, raising crops and caring for the countryside to provide food for the nation. With 90% of farms operated by sole traders or family partnerships the work on many farms can often be lonely and isolated with increasing levels of bureaucracy creating further stress on farms. The closure of livestock marts, restrictions on farm visits and cancellation of agricultural shows has also limited social interaction, again highlighting the need for farmers to look after their mental health.

Thankfully the good work of our farming charities does provide a lifeline to help support farming families but we all can do more to help spread the message that ‘it’s OK not to be OK”.

It was Canadian poet Brian Brett who said “Farming is a profession of hope” with that optimism complementing the resilience and can do attitude of our farmers. The ‘new normal’ after Covid-19 will be different for all of us and I have no doubt that our farmers will also adapt and seek new opportunities, particularly post Brexit.

CIEL, our academic partners and Members will continue to ensure that innovation, research, science and technology helps to support that optimism to drive the livestock industry through the present challenges and beyond.