Farmers and their suppliers are amidst a very busy spring programme as drilling and planting hits top gear. The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is having a wide-ranging impact, even affecting planting decisions this year. It is also causing concerns with supply chain slowdowns, farmers’ health and the wellbeing of their farming workforce. Keeping the workplace free of COVID-19 is of utmost importance to those industries that cannot work remotely and agriculture is no exception.
The UK’s food security and supply needs from our UK farming and livestock activities is in sharp focus. As the situation rapidly changes in the face of the virus and its resulting health threats and control measures, our agricultural team have looked at the likely impact on the industry.
Supply chains slowdowns
Arable and Livestock alike have already experienced supply chain glitches. Whether it has been fuel delivery delays due to tanker driver shortages or non-collection of milk due to processors being short staffed the early indications are that farming is in for a bumpy ride. The entire farming sector is conscious of how finite their workforce is and without them, what the impact would be upon the farming business and the rural economy. Further logistics are being disrupted as efforts are put in place to slow the spread of the virus. We have seen with some products, panic buying has been creating additional demand. We could yet see issues with farm product delivery and pickup as workers in the ancillary sector fall ill or are tied up with family responsibilities at home. These same concerns may affect the mills, abattoirs, markets, factories, dairies and processors. Slowdowns could also affect delivery of fertilizer, fuel and other input movement and availability as we head further in to spring.
Farmers’ health and a healthy workforce
Farmers are a relatively older population compared to the general UK workforce. COVID-19 is proving more dangerous to those aged 70 years and above.2 Whilst the rural nature of the industry makes the disease less prevalent it does still mean it is essential to keep protective measures in place to protect the farming industry workforce. Only by controlling the spread of the illness can the impact on agriculture be mitigated. The ongoing welfare of the farm workforce and those in the integrated networks is critical for our ongoing food supply.
- Farmers (despite the difficult environment in which they work) will need to follow government health official advice:1 washing hands regularly,
- limiting non-essential travel,
- maintaining social distancing.
Markets and farm prices
The normal purchasing habits of consumers as well as the closure of fast food outlets, restaurants, pubs and hotels has changed the supply chain. Adding in the human factor as people intrinsic to the supply chains performance fall ill, means that many routines have fallen away. Milk collections become sporadic, fish and chip shops no longer need potatoes and the buyers for certain types of meat that would have gone into the catering trade have dried up. This is having an impact upon markets with unpredictability causing price volatility in an already sensitive market place. Budgeting for such substantial change following the weather events of the last 6 months is lending ever greater pressure to farm accounts.
Worker safety and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
As with all sectors of the economy, finding suitable sanitisers and PPE is proving tricky. PPE and other protective equipment is vital for operating a farm safely. Keeping workers and animals healthy is fundamental to public health ongoing. However, due to current demands by the healthcare industry, these supplies are highly limited including protective gloves which have now become commonplace in dairy operations as a means to improve milk quality and protect the health of animals and people.
We want to keep the farming community informed on the coronavirus and its impact on the UK farming industry across all sectors. It is important to us that your insurances are arranged correctly, tailored around your own needs and in doing so give you peace of mind.
To find out more on how we can be if assistance please contact our farming specialists.