Shropshire farmers show resilience during pandemic

Almost every business around the world has been affected by Covid-19 in one way or another.

Jonathan Evans, NFU Shropshire adviser
Jonathan Evans, NFU Shropshire adviser

While some have been forced to completely close or axe staff, others have welcomed a wave of new customers and seen significant growth.

One industry which has been vital in feeding the nation during the pandemic is farming.

NFU Shropshire adviser Jonathan Evans said: “There have been many losers from the Covid-19 crisis and our thoughts, first and foremost, go to Shropshire families who have lost loved ones or have suffered as a result of the pandemic.

“From a farming point of view, agriculture is an important county industry and we’re in the business of feeding the country and that doesn’t stop for anything, we need to eat – crops need to be grown and animals reared.

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“We deal with the highs and lows like everyone else, working with the vagaries of the Shropshire weather, market and price volatility and the other surprises that often come our way.

“Farm businesses are resilient but the NFU has tried to build in contingency plans to ensure the smooth running of food and farming supply chains, which remain absolutely vital at this time."

"Supply chain disruption, concerns over on-farm labour, significant price volatility and delays in payments have added to issues with continued Brexit uncertainty and extreme weather over the last 12 months.

Contrasts

"As the pandemic worsened and lockdown measures enforced we heard more stories of empty supermarket shelves, dairy farms dumping milk, fruits and vegetables rotting in the field for lack of harvest labour, and people in the food system turning toward online ordering and home delivery."

Mr Evans added: “Shropshire farms have been affected in different ways by Covid-19 with some markets closed off and in the dairy sector some farmers have seen prices drop for milk, with some even forced to pour produce away, however, the hot weather has been great for those who sell ice cream, for example, so there are contrasts.

“I think it’s the same for any sector, we’re trying to get balance in these uncertain times but ultimately farmers just want to see a fair price for what they produce.

“At the start of lockdown prime beef cuts, that normally go into the food service sector, were struggling because they were not being bought in retail stores, however, there has been a surge in beef and lamb sales recently thanks to some successful marketing, backed up by great barbecuing weather.

“Some retailers also have commitments in place for 100 per cent British beef, pork, milk, chicken and eggs, which is great and as more restaurants and cafes start opening, albeit slowly and carefully, we’re seeing markets strengthen.

“The NFU food standard petition has now topped the one million mark and it’s important people continue to back us and sign it – we need to safeguard British food standards.

“We can’t let Shropshire farmers be disadvantaged by cheap imported food that is produced in ways that would be illegal to produce here in our own county; if this happens in any future trade deal then we will all be losing out in the long term," Mr Evans added.

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