With the corona virus situation evolving daily, distributors and agronomists are asking growers to liaise with them over delivery of farm inputs and agronomy services to minimise the risk of infection while continuing to meet crop needs.
The Agricultural Industries Confederation (AIC), which represents the agricultural supply chain sectors of arable marketing, crop protection and agronomy, feed, fertiliser and seeds is asking its farmer and grower customers to plan ahead and liaise with both their suppliers and those they are supplying.
AIC says: “It is important at this time to appreciate that flexibility may be required in order to ensure that businesses receive what they need when they need it. The industry needs to be practical in its approach. Whether it is deliveries or collections, we are in the best possible place to keep the UK supply chain functioning smoothly.
“We are working with Government to seek maximum flexibility to ensure that supplies from AIC members can continue with the least amount of interruption. We do need support from Government to introduce flexibility on driver hours, working time directive, feed labelling and border checks to name just a few. We also need Government to recognise the critical role that all member employees play in continuing to secure an unbroken supply of food to shop shelves.
“To this end, we have asked for details of how Government would categorise and manage essential worker movements in the event of movement restrictions. We will communicate to members on this matter when Government’s intentions are clearer.”
Association of Independent Crop Consultants (AICC) chairman Sean Sparling says technical meetings have been cancelled due to coronovirus and while growers are still being offered the choice of face to face meetings at the time of writing [March 19], AICC members can crop walk in isolation and supply advice by email or telephone.
“All the clients I have spoken to have said I can come on farm. I leave a ticket from a distance.”
He says should Government advice concerning movement change, AICC will work with industry bodies such as NFU, AIC and Defra to ensure agronomists can still go on farm if they act sensibly. “I’m less at risk and less of a risk on a farm in the middle of nowhere. We will work to ensure our members take a sensible approach, to follow best practice and that people showing symptoms don’t go on farm.”
Mr Sparling says technology such as drone imaging is not yet sufficiently well developed to replace crop walking. “The technology is expensive and in its infancy. Most cannot discriminate between black-grass and meadow grass and certainly not between rust and septoria, nor growth stage.
"Some people will undoubtedly try to make a quick buck but off the shelf drones are not capable of giving the level of detail we need.”