Farmers will need a serious cash injection from the Government if they are to survive this pandemic, then Brexit, says Deirdre Brock, SNP rural affairs spokesman in Westminster.
Never mind Brexit, here’s a pandemic!
There are people jealous of farmers just now – out in the open, working in the sunshine, fresh air and nature, getting on with something meaningful while everyone else is cooped up.
I’m not sure they appreciate how much of a kick in the finances this thing is.
Dairy farmers got the sticky end fairly quickly as the leisure and hospitality industries closed and a big chunk of their market vanished overnight.
If this drags on a few months, though, there won’t be a single farmer who escapes some impact of the economic collapse and the other effects of the lockdown.
The domestic market has shrunk, massively in leisure and hospitality, but also simply because shoppers have less cash; and the international markets have shrunk because other nations are in lockdown as well.
That pincer movement affects all of the food and drinks industry, but it has a particular impact on high quality produce.
For the farmer, income is affected but the costs keep coming.
If a hotel closes for a few months the bills slow, no need to heat and light it, no supplies, no laundry, and staff can be furloughed.
When the crisis passes that asset – the hotel – is still there and ready to be put back to use.
The same is true for a furniture showroom or a car salesroom or even a luxury wine cellar.
Farmers aren’t so lucky.
Animals still need to be fed and tended (including vets’ bills); crops might be in the ground but they need attention; waste needs to be dealt with.
Even if farms survive this winter in the midst of summer, there’s the question of when the markets will recover and when there will be some chance of recovering this year’s costs, never mind turning a profit.
If we can’t protect farm businesses, then we’ll lose food security and future export income, and neither of those is particularly desirable.
It would be a sensible investment for the Chancellor to channel a load of cash to farms just now to get businesses through this darkness and let them build for the future.
Some farmers might even be able to use the time bought to think about taking their business or their farming practices in a new direction.
We might be able to forge an opportunity out of this huge threat.
I’ve written to Rishi Sunak and suggested he use the CAP payment system to make some payments to farmers.
The alternative doesn’t seem too promising to me.
There are plenty of industries trying to make a case for support just now, but not many of them feed us.
We need to survive this, get through it intact and see where we are.
Then, of course, there’s Brexit to come.
Good luck to you all.
Deidre can be found tweeting at @DeidreBrock