21st August 2020


Rural Rap

THE UK’S LARGEST SOFT FRUIT CO-OP IS TO CREATE THE WORLD’S  FIRST “ROBOTIC FARM,” reports Farming UK.  “Robot Highways” aims to protect the industry against labour challenges, assist the need for global food production and reduce environmental impacts.  Grower owned co-op Berry Gardens is part of the consortium which has been awarded £2.5m for the project, which will perform the biggest known demo of robotics and autonomous technologies.  To be hosted at Kent’s Clock House Farm, the project is “key to industry sustainability by reducing sector reliance on seasonal labour, estimating a 40% reduction in labour required.”   farminguk.com/news/uk-soft-fruit-growers-to-create-world-s-first-robotic-farm-_56356.html

A KENT CHARITY THAT REHOMES CHICKENS HAS HAD MORE THAN 52,000 REQUEST FOR HENS SINCE THE START OF LOCKDOWN, reports the BBC.  Fresh Start for Hens saves birds that have reached the end of their peak laying years and would face being slaughtered.  While Operations Director Mrs Hann has 80 chickens in her garden, this week she is organising a handover of 332 hens and trying to find homes for 800 ducks from a Somerset farm.  At the peak, the charity was taking 4,000 inquires a week.

THE UK’S WHEAT HARVEST COULD BE THE WORST SINCE THE 1980s, reports the Guardian and Farming UK.  The NFU reports that the harvest will be down markedly this year, capping a tumultuous year for British farming after consecutive seasons of extreme weather.  Yields could be down by about a third with variable quality.  After a sodden winter left ground waterlogged, the problems really kicked in with the wettest February ever recorded, followed swiftly by Storms Ciara and Dennis and the associated flooding, followed by Storm Jorge.  While we did have good growing conditions this summer, it was brought to an abrupt end with severe thunderstorms last week which followed a mini-heatwave.   theguardian.com/environment/2020/aug/17/uk-facing-worst-wheat-harvest-since-1980s-national-farmers-union-nfu

A FIFTH OF THE GRAPES IN THIS YEAR’S CHAMPAGNE HARVEST WILL BE LEFT TO ROT ON THE GROUND, reports the Times. This is the result of a hard-fought deal between growers and wine producers to avert a glut and prop up prices.  The agreement, which coincided with the earliest recorded start to the regioj’s harvest, was thrashed out to limit damage rom a heavy drop in sales due to Covid.  The blow to the wine is the worst since WW2.  The harvest limit is particularly bitter as this year promises to be exceptional due to good spring rainfall followed by hot, dry weather.  LVMH, which owns Moet, Krug, Dom Perignon and Veuve Clicquot, has suffered a 30% fall in sales.

THE PANDEMIC HAS HIGHLIGHTED THE VALUE OF LOCALLY-SOURCED PRODUCE AND SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS, reports Farming UK.  According to an industry expert, recent reports show that food transparency, local sourcing and “immunity” eating are key drivers for consumer purchasing decisions.  This provides an opportunity for food producers to help rebuild the economy on green credentials.  The UK is seeing a rise in consumer interest in buying healthy, nutritious food produced with minimal environmental impact.  Nearly half of consumers are prepared to pay more for local foods and those brands that emphasise provenance and local supply chains.

ENVIRONMENTALLY CONSCIOUS CONSUMERS WHO SWITCH FROM COW’S MILK TO SOYA MILK MAY BE HARMING THE RAINFOREST, reports the Times.  Vast areas of South America, including in the Amazon, have been cleared to grow soya and demand for it continues to drive illegal deforestation.  Cows in Britain are fed partly on soya, but a litre of soya milk requires 11x as much of it as does a litre of cow’s milk.  Each kg of soya can produce 85l of cow’s milk, vs just 4.25-7.5l of soya milk.  Other plant-based milks also come with environmental problems: rice milk uses a lot of water, and almond milk is linked to excessive pesticide use and the death of bees.  While oat milk may be the best plant-based option because it can be produced from British grown crops, it still needs to be fortified with additives and “from a vegan perspective still depends on livestock as the waste product is fed to pigs.”   thetimes.co.uk/article/milk-from-cows-fed-on-grass-is-greener-than-soya-substitutes-say-scientists-h2v078xsk


KCC is seeking your views on spending priorities and the approach we should take to help us amend the 2020-21 budget.  The council is amending the budget due to additional spending and loss of income as a result of the pandemic. 
Responses will be considered by councillors at the full County Council meeting in September 2020. 
To contribute, please visit www.kent.gov.uk/budget 


RABI, Addington Fund, FCN, Forage Aid and RSABI, supported by the Prince’s Countryside Fund, have launched the Farming Help initiative.  The initiative is also being launched with the NFYFC, the NFU and the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust. 
FARMING HELP recognises that this will be an anxious time for many farmers and farming families and periods of poor health or self-isolation may result in temporary practical difficulties on farm.  For help drafting a contingency plan, for practical local help with livestock, shopping etc, or to discuss your concerns and anxieties,

Contact 03000 111 999 or visit www.farminghelp.co.uk

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