THE farming industry is having to think on its feet to overcome any negative impacts, which will continue beyond the pandemic, says Brian Richardson, UK Head of Agriculture for Yorkshire and Clydesdale Bank, owned by Virgin Money UK.

"The agri-industry has risen to the challenge that the pandemic has presented and truly demonstrated its resilience and robust nature. However, with these changes come a certain level of anxiety about adapting and sustaining services, as well as income. That’s why it’s unsurprising that during the last few weeks, we at the Bank have been adjusting existing arrangements or providing advice on Government support schemes," writes Brian for Farmer.

With decades of experience of working in this sector, it is important that, as a Bank, we can react quickly to changes in the markets. This ensures that our agricultural team can talk through individual requirements with their farming and rural customers and provide the necessary specialist advice to help them mitigate current and future impacts.”

In recent weeks the farming industry has been in a state of flux. As supply, demand and specifications have changed rapidly, farmers and the food industry have adapted at speed, but this has not been without its challenges. This has caused shifts in market pricing, some very negative, for example we despaired as we watched dairy producers on the news throwing milk away, but thankfully this was short lived although there is still a lot of challenge in the dairy sector. In fact, around 20 percent of supplies that would normally go into food service (restaurants, fast food outlets, coffee shops schools etc.) saw their markets disappear literally overnight. Increased demand through supermarkets compensated for some losses, but it still disrupted the supply chain and, for some, had a significant effect on the price they were receiving.

As a knock-on effect of the pandemic, there has also been some significant adjustments in how the food produced by farmers gets to the customers. This has affected supply and resultant cashflow. In fact, around 20 percent of supplies that would normally go into food service (restaurants, fast food outlets, schools etc.) was stopped instantly as outlets closed. Supermarket requirements increased, but these came with a level of challenge due to the initial spike from panic buying that has since settled.

Farming is a very long-term business, with the marketing of products running through the seasons, so some of the impacts of this pandemic, such as where premiums are lost or marketing has to be delayed, are yet to be felt. Some businesses have lost sales at their peak trading time - a challenge for any business. Others had diversified into businesses, such as farm shops, that have been forced to temporarily close.

Despite this, Brian feels confident about the future for a sector that evidence shows has more than risen to the challenge, and concludes: “When I talk each week to many of our customers and their trade organisations, I am always impressed by the resilience of the sector. Farmers’ adaptability and innovative thinking takes place on a daily basis. We will, as we have always done, continue to support them throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”