Scottish agriculture responds to the threat of Covid-19

NFU Scotland president, Andrew McCormick, has issued a statement confirming that Scottish agriculture will be to the fore in making sure that the threat of Covid-19 will not be synonymous with food and drink shortages.

“We thank the Scottish public for their continued support and reassure them that NFU Scotland will play a full part in the nation’s response,” he said.

“These are unprecedented times and the sight of empty shelves in some stores, both large and small, clearly illustrates the uncertainty and worry that many in our society are facing.

We want to keep those shelves stocked. Farmers and crofters, and the wider food and drink sector across Scotland, will deliver on food security and will work tirelessly to maintain all necessary supply chains to keep shelves full.

According to McCormick, discussions with Scottish government and other key stakeholders are already drilling down on key areas. These include the ability to get crucial supplies like animal feed, fuel, fertiliser and seed onto farms.

He points to the need for livestock, milk, eggs, cereals and vegetables to get to market while also keeping livestock markets open.

Consumers’ support

McCormick continued: “Abattoirs and food manufacturing sites must be kept open and working. Getting those goods processed and delivered onto a shelf, whether it be a farm shop, a local store or a supermarket is also a priority.

“Local businesses, both on farm and in the villages and towns, will undoubtedly value consumers’ support at this time.”

According to the NFU Scotland president, huge problems around labour are looming large, particularly for the country’s soft fruit and vegetable growers.

As a consequence, novel ways of seeking staff for farms are being considered. 

“Those who have lost their jobs or are on unpaid leave in the hospitality sector are being sought to allow planting and harvesting to be undertaken,” he explained.

“In times of crisis, Scottish farmers and crofters have always proved themselves to be innovative, adaptable and resilient. This time is no different.”

He continued, saying: “However, the way we will play our part in keeping food and drink flowing has changed in this current crisis, and we have the systems in place.

“We have already taken the responsible decision that NFU Scotland head office staff will work from home and any meetings or gatherings are suspended so all the work will be getting done in a different way.

Modern technology now gives all our professional staff the ability to work effectively using teleconferencing, video conferencing, email, social media, mobile phones, laptops and more, meaning daily contact with government, key industry stakeholders, internal contacts and our members is as seamless as possible.

‘Look out for one another’

McCormick believes that with difficult decisions being made on an hourly basis, technology provides farming and food in Scotland with the platforms to remain fully informed and engaged on all the key issues that are currently being discussed with urgency and at the highest level.

“The technology and goodwill exists to make this work, and the desire is there from everyone at NFUS to be pushing on, ensuring the best support and representation of the industry at all levels on all issues continues unabated,” he said.

“We also urge our community to look out for one another at this time, especially those who may be vulnerable or isolated, without access to internet, phone or mobile signal that many take for granted.”

“And a reminder for those who need emotional, practical or financial support in times of need: Our rural charity RSABI is there to support people in Scottish agriculture and can be contacted on: 0300-111-4166,” McCormick concluded.