Our city centre estate agency offices

Crofters, farmers, and COVID-19

These are strange times for us all.

People the length and breadth of the country, not to mention further afield, are having to adjust rapidly to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and the effect it’s had our everyday lives.

Beyond the serious health implications, we are continuing to see the impact the necessary restrictions are having on the economy and people’s jobs. Indeed, for many professional services firms like ours, that’s meant remote working so we can continue being open for business even though our offices are closed.

The theme of adapting to change led me to consider the impact of COVID-19 on my own clients and the farming sector as a whole.

The agricultural perspective

In many ways for farmers and crofters, it is business as usual.

Many are in the midst of calving and lambing and the myriad other jobs that spring, and better weather, brings. Farmers and crofters continue to put everything into bringing Scotland’s high quality produce to our tables.

But what happens if, for example, a farmer or crofter falls ill?

Lambing is an almost 24-hour, non-stop job and by all accounts not something that is likely to be possible with anything but the mildest symptoms. Therefore I was pleased to hear of special support being put in place for Shetland crofters by NFU Shetland branch.

This operates as a database of those who can lend help and support to others affected and unwell, and Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service is offering a similar service.

This is typical of the crofting way of life, which is rooted in community spirit and helping one another. NFU Scotland also has a dedicated coronavirus section on its website which I’d encourage farmers and crofters to have a look at.

As well as concerns around cashflow disruption and loss of markets such as pubs, caterers and restaurants, there is also the worry of getting the harvest in later in the year with much of the usual labour unable to travel due to COVID-19 restrictions.

There’s no immediate, easy solution to that issue but hopefully one can be found in the not-too-distant future so crops are not left to spoil in the fields.

What next?

The sector’s crucial role in our food security has been thrown into the spotlight.

I was impressed to see, just as supermarket shelves became bare, local farms quickly finding their feet and offering customers direct, doorstep delivery of excellent local produce. Some are completely new to the idea and others have already been providing this service for a while, but have had to be quick to adjust and accommodate a huge growth in demand.

This too is typical: the rural sector has a great track record when it comes to adapting and diversifying, whatever happens.

Will that ultimately, when this awful situation has eased, be something farmers and crofters in the Highlands and beyond can build on as a more direct way of selling their quality goods to a receptive audience? Time will tell, but I hope so.

Meantime, I am available throughout the lockdown to offer advice to any farmers and crofters affected in any way by COVID-19. Please just drop me a quick line for an informal chat to see how I can help.

Gary Webster

Gary has extensive experience in the agricultural and rural sectors with a strong background in areas including agricultural tenancies, crofting law and rural business restructuring and succession.

Posted, 07 April 2020 by Gary Webster
Categories: Coronavirus | Coronavirus and rural | Private client | Rural