5th February 2021


Rural Rap

REVENUES AT ENGLISH SPARKLING WINE PRODUCER GUSBOURNE ARE UP 29%, reports the Grocer.  In its trading update, the business said net revenue for the year was expected to be up 29% at £2.1m, which reflected LFL growth of 24% in H1 and 33% in H2.  Gusbourne produces sparkling wine in its own vineyards in Kent and West Sussex, and experienced significant growth in DTC sales as the company adapted to the impact of the pandemic.  The business also expanded overseas.  DTC sales make up about 30% of net revenue, while exports generated 32.%.

A KENT BEEKEEPER TRYING TO IMPORT 15M BEES AS BEEN TOLD THEY MAY BE SEIZED AND BURNED BECAUSE OF POST-BREXIT LAWS, reports the Kent Messenger.  Patrick Murfet wants to import the baby Italian bees for his Kent business and to help farmers pollinate valuable crops.  But new laws mean that bringing bees into the country is banned.  Since the end of the transition period, only queen bees can be imported, rather than colonies and packages.  Murfet imports a large number of bees each year from Italy, where the climate is warmer.  They are used to replenish stocks, strengthen breeding lines and as early-awakening pollinators for fruit and honey farms in the UK.  A loophole in current legislation means that they can enter via Northern Ireland, but he has been warned that they will be seized and burned if he tries to do this.

AHDB HAS ISSED ITS FORECAST OF UK FARMING PROSPECTS FOR 2021, reports Farming UK.  Describing the report as one of the most challenging ever produced, it explores the impact of the pandemic, Brexit, and the pervasive influence of China on global commodities markets.  The report is intended to help farmers and the wider industry assess the potential impacts on their sector to help them plan and budget for the year to come.  Report highlights include a 4% rise in UK pig meat production, exceeding 1m tonnes for the first time. A 5% fall in beef production is expected, and a 4% fall in sheep production.  OSR is expected to continue its decline, while production for the 2021 harvest is estimated to fall back slightly to 6.55-7.98m tonnes.

JUST 34% OF LANDLORDS CAN SURVIVE IF SHUT UNTIL THE SUMMER, reports the Countryside Alliance.  Some 80 landlords and pub owners took part in the Alliance’s survey.  70% of respondents hope to survive if restrictions are lifted by April, but that drops to just 37% if they are required to remain closed until June.  One respondent said that “we need positive help: vat to stay at 5% for at least 2 years, rates to be cut by 50% for the same length of time.”  92% want to scrap the “substantial mean” rule. Most pubs spent staggering sums – between £1,000 and £5,000 installing features to comply with Covid safety guidance, including outdoor heaters, hand sanitising stations and PPE for staff.

NO OTHER COUNTRY HAS A HIGHER DEGREE OF RESPECT FOR FARMERS THAN THE UK, reports Farming UK.  A YouGov survey of 22,000 people across the globe shows that 47% of UK respondents would be happy if they child became a farmer, compared to a global average of just 23%.  It comes as Covid and Brexit have challenged food supply chains like never before, making the public realise the extent of the UK’s leadership in producing high-quality food.


BIG FARMLAND BIRD COUNT: 5-14TH February.  To take part, spend 30 minutes recording the species and number of birds seen on one particular area of your farm.  Somewhere with a good view of around 2ha is ideal.


RABI has launched the largest ever research project in England and Wales relating to the wellbeing of farming people.  This wide-ranging survey will consider for the first time the relationship between physical health, mental wellbeing and the health of farm businesses.

Who can take part: farmers, farm workers, their spouses and adult-aged children
When: 11th January to 31st March 2021
Content: the survey will take about 15 minutes to complete and will cover three aspects: your mental health, your physical health, and the health of your farming business.
Availablity Online: rabi.org.uk/BigFarmingSurvey
Available in print: hard copies will be circulated in various farming magazines and via postal farming lists.  Alternatively, email FarmSurvey@exeter.ac.uk

The aim is to get 26,000 questionnaires completed, to give a better understanding of the overall health of our industry, and to help target the available support to where it is most needed.


Michael Bax, chair of the Kent Police Rural Crime Advisory Group, received a number of enquiries after lockdown seeking clarification as to how shoots could manage the unsustainable residual number of birds on the ground following the loss of much of the 2020/21 shooting season.  There are a number of considerations:

1. a massive welfare issue
2. disease potential
3. crop damage as birds forage beyond their normal range

Kent Police engaged immediately and are still consulting.  Below is his summary of the advice to date:

– Lockdown guidance indicates that people can leave home and meet in groups for work purposes.  That only applies for paid employment.  Accordingly, culling, pest control or other land management operations appear to be permissable as long as participants follow the “Working Safely During Covid” guidance.

– In summary therefore, the need to control the bird population is understood, but this should be done by paid employment.  It is stressed that it would be against the spirit of the guidance to allow groups to gather to shoot on a voluntary basis, as that could and would be perceived as shooting parties via the backdoor.

– Accordingly, it is for shoots to organise keepers and other paid employees to conduct the necessary management

Beyond that, we all have a legal and moral obligation to stay at home, undertake no unnecessary travel, and control this dreadful disease.


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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