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Farming through Covid-19


Life goes on.  Farming is 24/7. An outside view would suggest farming has been unaffected by coronavirus. Cows still need milking, animals feeding and mucking out; the final stages of the sugar beet harvest being completed and signs of spring with some early lambing flocks.  But problems beyond the farmgate have impacted on the supply chain, and at the top of the chain sits the farmer/producer.

Latte and two sugars?

An immediate consequence of Lockdown 1 was the closure of coffee houses; no body going into the office and collecting their latte en route. The impact was dairy farmers having to discard over 2m litres of milk a day until the market adjusted.

Many artisan cheese producers increased production for the Christmas market and post-Christmas orders from restaurants. But lockdown 3 led to the cancellation of orders and several producers have tried to dispose of stock at cost of production to avoid a total write-off.

This big piggy could not go to market!

Meat producers aren’t unscathed either. 85% of our sow meat is exported to Germany. The incidence of coronavirus in the cutting plants in Germany has caused them to close; the market has temporarily disappeared inflicting a major reduction in price in our markets and in some cases, there is no market. Pig producers are being forced to find some large straw yards to house and feed sows until the market will take them.

A host of golden daffodils-hopefully

And spare a thought for the main daffodil growers in Cornwall. There farmers need up to 800 socially-distanced pickers a day throughout the season. It’s quite mind boggling that our supermarkets still want to sell a bunch of daffodils for £1; a price that has remained unchanged for six years!

Diversification: the saviour?

Farm diversification for many businesses has been a means of survival. Farmers have diversified to create additional income/profit for a farming business that is not sustainable from its core-farming with many diversifying into  tourism, hospitality, and events. However, the past 12 months has seen a reversal of this. Lockdown has meant the closure of these types of business, but many still costs associated with them, resulting in  the core farm business having to subsidise the diversification.

As cuts in the Single Farm Payment start to take effect it is vital that on-farm activities again become a profit centre.

But it’s not all baa’d news!

Back in December, before a deal to leave the EU was agreed, there was great concern about exporting lamb and the possibility of tariffs being imposed by trading on WTO terms. The agreed deal avoided any tariffs, Covid-19 has had no real impact and lamb prices broke through the 500p/kg dcw in January.

If you’re looking for funding for your core farm business or your diversification – talk to us, perhaps we can help: 01566 773296.

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