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In Your Field: Ian Garnett - 'Quality staff are vital to the success of our industry'

In early March, after watching the news, we casually suggested that if we ever had to go into isolation it could take us a while to notice any difference, such is the reality of many farmers’ lives at this time of year.

Right now we feel very fortunate to be living somewhere that keeping safe distances and avoiding unnecessary travel is much simpler than it must be for many others.

 

I have never known ground to dry up as quickly as it has done these past few weeks.

 

Glad though I am of the opportunities it affords us, we are finding it quite a challenge to undertake the spring work while squeezing in the jobs from last autumn which were rained off.

 

In these challenging times, I understand how difficult it is to run a business with fewer staff, due to a whole host of issues.

 

Quality staff, many of whom are from elsewhere in Europe, are vital to the success of our industry and to feeding our nation.

 

Uncertainty over this resource created by post-Brexit proposals has been heightened by coronavirus.

 

It shows how vulnerable a nation could be if there were an over-reliance on imported food.

 

I hope this staffing shortfall is recognised within Whitehall and those calls for foreign agricultural workers to go on the occupational shortage list are listened to.

 

It seems this dreadful virus may have helped to highlight the importance of UK agriculture in terms of keeping the food on the plate of a standard we can all trust. Let’s hope the British shopper rewards our work with their loyalty.


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I was surprised to hear ABP’s decision to introduce about 400 tonnes of eastern European beef to supermarket shelves in the UK.

 

This news arrives on the same week our supermarket buyer told us they wish to discontinue purchasing black and white bull calves, a scheme which had been brought in to give farmers a sustainable outlet for their animals.

 

Food service and catering has pretty much ceased to exist in the lockdown, which makes it disappointing to see more cannot be done to avoid importing ‘no fuss’ beef to yet further dampen UK prices.

 

This is at a time when major retailers will see vastly increased demand, some from panic buying but a large proportion will be replacing food which would otherwise have been supplied by restaurants, fast food outlets and the like.

 

It seems Covid-19 has grave implications for the dairy industry, with problems collecting milk from farms. It has been suggested swathes of dairy producers may be requested to dump 5 per cent of their milk and likewise, some may not get any collected at all. It is a huge worry.

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