Farmers have been asked to do what they can to protect agricultural contractors as UK Government implements stricter ‘stay at home’ measures to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Agricultural contractors are listed as ‘key workers’ that are exempt from being at home due to their line of work.

However, the nature of their job - visiting multiple farmers at several locations on a weekly basis - puts them in a vulnerable position.

Issuing the advice, Ulster Farmers' Union deputy president Victor Chestnutt said: “Agri contractors play a valuable role in the Northern Ireland agricultural industry.

"Their service is particularly important at this time of year when there is plenty of fieldwork to be done and the weather improves.

"Due to the work that they do, agri contractors must travel to where the work is, visiting farms and locations across Northern Ireland.

It is vital that farmers who avail of an agri contractor’s services, follow social distancing guidance and take extra precautions to protect them during the Covid-19 outbreak.

“Farmers should minimise face-to-face interaction with contractors on their farm as much as possible. If they need to speak to them to provide details about the job that needs to be done, they should do so by phone.

"In this day and age, the majority of people have access to a mobile phone, we should be maximising our mobile usage to protect one another and ensure we stay apart.

"Farmers should allow agri contractors to get on with their job without engaging in direct contact with them. They’re as vital to the food production process as farmers and we need their service to continue throughout this pandemic.

"Agri contractors work hard around the clock so we can continue to provide quality produce, supplying local shops and larger retail stores across the country. Their work is essential to our plan to manage Covid-19.”