Farmers face ‘unprecedented’ task in feeding the nation

The farming community faces “unprecedented” challenges in continuing to feed the nation, many of its leaders have warned.

Adam Bedford, Regional Director of the National Farmers' Union.

The National Farmers’ Union said it had been contacted by “huge numbers” of growers trying to come to terms with the restrictions and seeking assurances on how the Chancellor’s business support measures would impact on farming.

The NFU’s regional director, Adam Bedford, inset, said: “We are already seeing horticultural growers in need of more staff, and livestock markets affected by public gathering restrictions.

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“The supply chain also has a massive challenge diverting food from cafes, pubs and restaurants – which normally provide a third of the food we eat – into the retail sector for people to use at home.”

The Country Land and Business Association, which represents rural landowners, said it welcomed the Chancellor’s measures but warned that the effect on the rural economy would be “long lasting”.

Its Northern director, Dorothy Fairburn, said: “The pandemic has magnified the importance and complexity of producing food. Perhaps referring to it as ‘farm to fork’ is a gross simplification, and hides the fact of all the inputs required, outputs and supply chains that ensure food on the nation’s tables.”

She said diversified rural businesses, especially in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, were being particularly hard hit by the number of cancellations and postponements.

“We have never been faced with a challenge quite like this. It is important for all businesses to be reviewing existing plans and I would hope that the majority are already some way along this process,” she said.

George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers’ Association, said the organisation was in contact with the Government “to ensure that, as far as possible, the needs and issues affecting the farming community are understood and taken on board”.