Scotland’s agricultural industry must be enabled to be proactive as the nation emerges from the impact of the coronavirus crisis.
Speaking this week on the 24th of June by video link with the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, NFU Scotland’s Director of Policy Jonnie Hall joined other stakeholders in discussing the impact of Covid-19 on agriculture, fisheries, aquaculture and food and drink sectors.
In written evidence to the committee, NFUS said that lessons are already being learned but that recovery is likely to take many years. The Union recognised that Scottish agriculture and all that it underpins will have to change and adapt to what is and will be a very new operating environment which will not be ‘business as usual’.
Mr Hall will also give evidence on Scotland’s Covid-19 recovery when he takes part in a video conference with Westminster’s Scottish Affairs committee tomorrow (25 June).
Mr Hall said: “Post-Covid recovery, and our departure from the EU, will be very challenging for the agricultural sector, as markets and supply chains have to adapt to survive and thrive and agricultural support is realigned in light of tighter financial constraints and amended policy goals.
“There is significant opportunity for the sector within this challenge. The resetting and restarting of food production, processing and distribution, while meeting a raft of major government policy objectives, will provide the catalyst for change.
“Our primary goal within the longer-term economic recovery is to secure a profitable and sustainable agricultural industry that acts as a cornerstone to economic, environmental and social benefits: producing high quality food and products that our customers want; seeking growth in new export markets; taking the lead in the delivery of climate ambitions and a flourishing environment; driving sustainable rural development, helping rural communities thrive and prosper; and contributing to key objectives on animal health and welfare as well as promoting human health and well-being.
“One positive legacy for the industry from Covid-19 has been in terms of the support that consumers have demonstrably shown for food and drink that is produced locally. NFUS members have taken seriously their role as producers of food and drink during the pandemic, and are encouraged by the excellent support for the sector that has arisen from the rise in farm shop deliveries, doorstep deliveries, and the actions of some retailers in using the opportunity to source and support domestically-produced produce as far as possible. NFUS appreciates that the UK and Scottish governments, too, have highlighted their support for domestic production at this time.
“Moving out of the shadow of the pandemic, it is vital that industry and governments work together to ensure a clear and consistent message continues to be received by the general public of the important role played by farmers, crofters and growers – not just in terms of ensuring security of food supply but also with regard to the extremely high provenance of the domestic food and drink offering, produced to exacting standards.”