With the impacts of COVID-19 being felt across the livestock sector, national livestock board chairman Richard Findlay has a message for members about what the NFU is doing to help:
Over the past few years we have grown used to saying that we are living through a period of uncertainty, but I don’t think anything can compare to our current situation. Within the space of a week we have gone from pretty much normal life to the almost complete closure of the food service sector.
Unsurprisingly, trade in Europe has also massively slowed with the huge drop in out-of-home eating. The closure of the food service sector across Europe will have significant impacts on beef and lamb suppliers – we have already seen the lamb price fall through the floor and beef cattle being turned away from abattoirs – but I ask that members are patient.
Demand has not disappeared with the closure of the food service sector – it’s just moved somewhere else. The British Retail Consortium has said that over the past few weeks there has been an extra £1bn of food in people’s homes and retailers are under huge pressure to fill the gap.
The NFU is working tirelessly to realign supply chains to place our products into retail and is in constant contact with agricultural retail teams, connecting them with smaller processors and alternative markets. Most livestock markets continue to stay open and we are updating Defra on a daily basis to feed in any issues along the supply chain and help them find ways to ease production.
With no other options than to eat at home, we need to work hard to showcase the versatility of British beef and lamb to the public and ensure they have access to a healthy, balanced diet during this crisis, and prove what we can do for them in the long term too.
Redirecting demand will be a challenge, and I know that the words ‘concern’ and ‘worry’ don’t even come close to what many of you are feeling right now. But remember that we are in this together, not only as a sector and a farming community, but as a country. The public are looking to us to keep supermarket shelves stocked and to help them through the next few months, and in turn they will help us by buying our products.
The next few months with be difficult, but as an industry we must do what we can to support the public, support our fellow farmers, and keep ourselves and our families safe. And you can rest assured that myself, the rest of the board and the wider NFU team will be backing you every step of the way.