12th February 2021


Rural Rap

BRITAIN’S BIGGEST WINE MAKER HAS CALLED TIME ON ITS FORAY INTO BEER, reports the Times.  Chapel Down has sold its Curious Drinks business, together with its beer and cider portfolio and brewery and restaurant in Ashford, to Risk Capital Partners, Luke Johnson’s private equity firm.  Although Curious was launched in 2011, the brewery opened in June 2019.  It relied on top end restaurants, pubs, bars and hotels for 90% of its sales.  The deal is subject to Risk Capital Partners being granted the requisite licences.  Chapel Down will then place Curious Drinks into administration and Risk will acquire the business from the administrators.  The wine maker will receive nothing for its 90% stake in Curious, but will reduce its debt from £7.2m to £100,000.  The remaining 10% will be able to convert their Curious shares into Chapel Down shares.

A MAJOR SOLAR POWER INSTALLATION HAS BEEN COMPLETED ON A KENT FARM, reports Farming UK.  AC Goatham & Sons, which grows over 350m apples and 55m pears each year, has finished installing one of the UK’s largest roof mounted solar panel arrays.  It will generate enough power to run the equivalent of 317 homes for a year.  The farming business has used existing roof space of the buildings at two of its 25 farms: Flanders Farm in Hoo and Howt Green Farm near Bobbing.  It will reduce Goatham’s annual carbon emissions by the equivalent of planting 7,328 trees a year.

LILLICO’S COUNTRY STORE HAS ADDED A NEW LINE TO ITS OFFER, reports the Kent Messenger.  The business, which is one of Aylesford’s oldest, started life as a grain and agricultural merchant in 1788.  Since then it has offered a range of products for horses, pets and farm animals.  Now the company has introduced a “Farmer’s Table” offering locally sourced vegetables, meat and drinks.  Customers can now find fresh fruit and dairy products, deli goods, dried goods and giftware.  All the products are sourced lo cally, helping to support rural businesses.  Local producers interested in selling their wares should call.

UK GROWERS OF FRUIT AND VEG HAVE SEEN LABOUR COSTS RISE AT LEAST 34% SINCE 2016, reports Farmers Weekly.  Farmgate prices have remained virtually static in the same period.  The report examines the effect of rises in the NLW on the horticultural sector over the past five years.  It argues that wage cost inflation is now a real threat to domestic production and UK growers need to be paid a fairer price for the produce to stop them quitting or relocating abroad.  The increase in statutory hourly rate for workers over 25 has been over 34%, but productivity losses mean many growers have actually seen a 40-50% rise in employment costs.  The report continues by arguing that, for labour intensive crops such as blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, among many others, a farmgate price increase of 9-19% is needed simply to offset the NLW increase.

A NEW £10M FUND WILL PROVIDE GRANTS OF UP TO £100K TO FARMERS AND LANDOWNERS, reports Farming UK. The grants will be available to projects which tackle climate change and restore habitats.  The Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund aims to spur on nature projects in England to the point where they can attract private investment.  The Environment Agency said this would create a pipeline of projects for the private sector to invest in.  Applications are open until 26th March.

FARMERS ARE ENCOURAGED TO APPLY FOR COUNTRYSIDE STEWARDSHIP AGREEMENTS TO HELP THEM IMPROVE THE ENVIRONMENT, reports Farming UK.  Farmers can apply for funding to improve their local environment – from restoring wildlife habitats and creating woodlands to managing flood risk.  Changes have been made to the scheme this year to broaden out the options available and make it easier to apply.  There are options to help farmers improve air quality, reduce ammonia emissions and improve water quality.  There are also now wood pasture options in the uplands.  There is also an increased number of capital items that farmers can apply for using the Rural Payments service, covering water capital, hedgerows and boundaries, and air quality.

NFU MUTUAL HAS PLEDGED A FARMING AND RURAL COMMUNITY SUPPORT PACKAGE WORTH £2.75M TO HELP THE COUNTRYSIDE THROUGH THE PANDEMIC, reports Farming UK.  The package includes donations to charities, as well as rural and mental health causes, to support the countryside through the ongoing crisis.  The funds will be distributed over 16 weeks from the end of February, offering support as lockdown measures continue to impact communities.  Alongside this, NFU Mutual will also be supporting “mental health in farming” training sessions for farmers.

UK ORGANIC MARKET NOW WORTH £2.79BN, reports Farming UK.  This follows 2020 sales growth of nearly 13% – the highest year on year growth rate in the market since 2005, and the 10th consecutive year of growth.  The market is now on target to reach £2.9bn by the end of this year.  The numbers mean that over £50m per week was spent on organic last year, as shopping habits changed due to the pandemic.  Online and home delivery sales fuelled much of the growth in the organic market in 2020, with sales increasing by 36.2%.

COUNCILS ACROSS ENGLAND ARE TRANSFORMING ROADSIDE VERGES TO SUPPORT WILDFLOWERS, reports Kent Online.  An FoI request has found that 70% of English councils are using mowing or management regimes alongside roads in their area to boost wildflowers and wildlife such as bees.  Conservationists say road verges are an overlooked but vital habitat, which are home to over 700 species of wildflower, including threatened orchids and other rare plants.  Among schemes implemented, there has been a reduction in how often verges are mown each year, the timing of mowing has been changed, and the width of verge that is cut has been altered.  Other authorities are managing stretches as nature reserves and sowing perennial or annual displays.


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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