3rd July 2020


Rural Rap

TWO KENT ORGANISATIONS HAVE COMBINED FORCES TO BOLSTER THE COUNTY’S HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY IN A CAMPAIGN TO “SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL.”  Produced in Kent and Visit Kent have teamed up to help businesses as they come out of lockdown, focussing on the county’s food and drink sector.  The county-wide community appeal and marketing campaign is set to run from July to December, in support of these local, independent enterprises.  The scheme wants to celebrate the Kent hospitality sector, make customers feel safe, and appeal to people’s personal responsibility.  Those wishing to support the campaign can make a Caring Customer Pledge to Kent’s local restaurants, pubs, cafes and hotels when they open.  In doing so, patrons will be pledging their commitment to “Respect, Protect and Enjoy” establishments as each one adapts to post-lockdown circumstances.  Caring Customers can proudly display the #CaringCustomer badge on their social media and are actively encouraged to share their experiences online. Further details about the pledge, as well as an interactive map showing local suppliers, can be found on the www.HelpKentBuyLocal.co.uk website.  producedinkent.co.uk/kent-organisations-set-bolster-hospitality-industry/

ROBOT FRUIT PICKERS COULD SOLVE THE INDUSTRY’S SKILLED RECRUITMENT CRISIS, reports the Kent Messenger.  Giles Cannon, manager of Roughway Farm near Tonbridge, says his farm has been “overwhelmed” with job interest in recent weeks as hundreds of people seek to work as fruit pickers.  The floodgates were opened by a national call from the Environment Secretary several weeks ago.  However, the role is far from “unskilled labour” and recruiting experienced farm labour has proved challenging.  Farmers around the world are increasingly interested in robot technology to address the long-term decline in skilled labour, and last year the world’s first raspberry-picking robot was trialled in the UK.  kentonline.co.uk/malling/news/fruit-picking-robots-could-solve-jobs-crisis-229475/

SHEPHERD NEAME HAS AGREED A NEW £25M BORROWING FACILITY TO PROTECT IT FROM THE IMPACT OF LOCKDOWN, reports the Kent Messenger.  The Faversham brewer hopes to have two-thirds of its 300 pubs trading again by the end of the month.  While supermarket beer sales saw “significant” growth during lockdown, the closure of its pubs and restaurants have hit the business hard.  Over the past month, it has furloughed staff and directors all agreed a temporary 20% pay cut.  Additionally, no cash bonuses will be paid this year and no pay rises will be permitted across the company.  And its board has now agreed to increase its overall debt facilities with a £25m revolving credit facility of which £15m is committed and a further £10m available on request. kentonline.co.uk/kent-business/county-news/brewery-agrees-to-new-25m-lending-deal-229672/

A KENT HORTICULTURAL CO-OP HAS INSTALLED “THE BIGGEST SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM OF ITS KIND,” reports Farming UK.  Working with UK growers and overseas partners, Berry Gardens is the largest grower-owned horticulture co-op in the UK.  It has received a £780k “green loan” which has allowed it to construct 3,600 solar panels covering over 6,000m2 – significantly reducing its footprint.  The new solar array has been installed at the co-op’s headquarters near Maidstone.  farminguk.com/news/fruit-grower-builds-biggest-solar-energy-system-of-its-kind-_55962.html

RURAL GROUPS HAVE WELCOMED GOVERNMENT PLANS TO SIMPLIFY THE PLANNING SYSTEM AS A MEANS TO KICK START THE POST-COVID RECOVERY, reports Farming UK.  New regulations announced by the PM aim to give “greater freedom” for buildings and land to change use without planning permission.  In a speech on Tuesday, he pledged to “build, build, build” to soften the “economic aftershock” of the pandemic.  Changes will allow existing commercial properties to be converted into residential housing more easily.  farminguk.com/news/pm-s-pledge-to-simplify-planning-system-welcomed-by-rural-sector_55992.html

, reports Farming UK.  The fresh produce sector has warned that increasing costs are aroding confidence, risking an unsustainable situation for many UK farm businesses.  The pandemic is believed to have triggered a 15% rise in labour costs, on top of the 34% rise in labour costs already seen in the last five years.  And because of the low levels of confidence triggered by the pandemic, knock-on impacts on future planning decisions and the ability to make business investments are feared.   farminguk.com/news/coronavirus-cost-increases-eroding-growers-confidence-report-warns_55970.html

THE GOVERNMENT IS TO SET UP A TRADE AND AGRICULTURE COMMISSION TO ADVISE MINISTERS OF THE UK’S APPROACH TO POST-BREXIT TRADE AGREEMENTS, reports Farmers Weekly. Liz Truss made the announcement in a letter to the NFU.  This follows months of campaigning by the NFU for an independent commission to scrutinise the government’s proposed trade deals with individual countries.  The union has repeatedly warned that British farmers must not be undermined by food imports produced to standards and using methods that are illegal in the UK.  fwi.co.uk/news/eu-referendum/government-to-set-up-trade-and-agriculture-commission

RED TRACTOR HAS COMPLETED 6,300 REMOTE ASSESSMENTS AS PART OF ITS VIRTUAL AUDIT INITIATIVE, reports Farming UK.  All physical on-farm audits were suspended in March.  Over the past two months, the UK’s largest food and farming scheme has seen thousands of farmer members complete remote assessments on-farm.  The assurance body’s remote assessments give the assessors the ability to have “virtual eyes” on farm and allows farmers to complete assessments to gain or maintain their assurance status.  farminguk.com/news/coronavirus-red-tractor-completes-6-300-remote-assessments_55996.html

OUR ECOSYSTEMS PROVIDE US WITH VITAL SERVICES NEEDED FOR SURVIVAL, FROM OXYGEN TO FOOD, writes the GWCT.  Food pollinated by our insects contributes over £400bn to the British economy each year.  Sadly the UK is said to be one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.  Over 70% of the UK is given over to agriculture, and so effective habitat management is essential to protecting our natural world.  60% of farmland species are in decline, with a significant decline in farmland birds and insects such as moths are in critical decline. The PARTRIDGE project is working with farmers, conservationists, hunters, scientists and volunteers to show how to conserve and increase biodiversity by 30% on arable farmlands.  By ensuring that at least 7% of each 500ha demo site provides high-quality wildlife habitat, grey partridges and other wildlife are provided with nesting, brood-rearing and winter cover.  Such habitats include flower blocks, beetle banks, skylark plots, arable margins and hedgerows.  northsearegion.eu/partridge/press-releases/why-protecting-farmland-biodiversity-is-so-important/

THE FIRST FEW WEEKS OF LOCKDOWN CUT LEVELS OF DANGEROUS POLLUTANTS BY AS MUCH AS 40% IN TOWNS AND CITIES, reports Kent Online.  DEFRA data found dramatic drops in nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide between the start of lockdown and April 30th.  While the positive effects of the shutdown on air quality was not felt evenly across the country, urban environments saw an average fall of between 30&40%.  One of the biggest drivers was the fall in road traffic, which fell by 70% over the period in question.  There was also a 55% drop in daytime CO2 emissions in central London, and around 20% nationwide.  kentonline.co.uk/news/national/first-month-of-lockdown-saw-dramatic-drop-in-air-pollution-research-6945/

** Events **

SATURDAY 4TH JULY: Romney Marsh Wools Open Day
Romney Marsh Wools will be sharing more from behind the scenes on the farm and taking a look at sheep shearing.  Local food, drink and craft businesses will take part as virtual stall holders.

The open day will run across social media channels, so follow on:
Instagram: @romneymarshwools
Twitter: @romneymarshwool
Facebook: /romneymarshwools

11am to 3pm.

Virtual stall holder applications are now open: please contact info@romneymarshwools.co.uk

Viti-Culture provides a showcase for interested and prospective growers to speak to exprts and find out more about wine production.  Whether you have an established vineyard and winery, are looking to plant, or want to invest in your own production facilities, this event is for you.  This virtual interactive exhibition will enable exhibitors and vineyarsd to reach a worldwide stage as never before.

Event opens at 8.30am; live seminars start at 9.45am
Pre-registration is now open.



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

To receive the Rural Rap direct to your inbox please contact info@ruralplc.com