In a year like no other, the farming community demonstrated unwavering strength and resilience in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic, powering on despite lockdown to keep the country fed. Hannah Binns and Alex Black report.
This created winners and losers, with supermarkets, butchers and delivery services seeing a boost in sales.
But for those reliant on the hospitality industry, March’s lockdown saw them lose their market overnight.
In the dairy sector, it led to farmers dumping thousands of litres of milk despite sales soaring at supermarkets and on doorsteps.
However, dairy analyst Chris Walkland branded 2020 as one of the sector’s finest hours for its role in keeping products on shelves.
Lack of out-of-home eating opportunities saw carcase imbalance concerns surface, but UK retailers stepped up to the mark, promoting high quality cuts of meat throughout the year.
The stoic representation from auction marts also saw minimal trade disruption, with new social distancing measures adopted to keep buyers and vendors safe and a flying trade across the board.
Horticulture’s reliance on migrant labour was highlighted when international flights were grounded, leading to appeals from growers and the Government for British workers to make up the shortfall.
Those selling direct to the public also stepped up their offerings as people looked for alternatives to the weekly shop.
And as consumers showed their support for farmers as key workers during the pandemic, they stepped up to back the NFU’s petition to uphold standards, which gained more than a million signatures.
While the precarious political situation continues to loom large, the sector now faces its biggest shake-up in 50 years.
In the latest special issue of Farmers Guardian, we take a look at the defining moments of 2020 and ask what is in store for British farming in 2021.