A survey on the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on farm advisers and their farmer clients in the UK and the two largest EU farming member states show little impact on usual farm activities through new ways of working. But farm diversifications have been badly affected in the UK.

International agricultural market researcher Kynetec surveyed 176 farm advisers across France, Germany and the UK collectively responsible for around 16,500 farms managing more than 1.5 million hectares. This followed an earlier sample of 873 farm businesses across the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany and the Czech Republic.

Farm advisers across Europe either continued to service clients by maintaining their usual activities whilst complying with government safety measures or increased their use of telephone consultations. In the UK, 90% of the advisers maintained their usual level of activities, as did 85% in France and 61% in Germany (with 85% of German farm advisers also switching to telephone consultations).

Farmer clients reported a coronavirus impact on their businesses, particularly in access to temporary labour (59% in the UK, France 56%, Germany 87%); access to services and consultancy (UK 43%, France 43%, Germany 69%); delays to planned investment (UK 48%, France 51%, Germany 69%); and the reduction in profitability from non-farming enterprises (UK 82%, France 48%, Germany 67%).

But farmers added that the demand for farm outputs, prices achieved, and profitability were not adversely affected by the pandemic and its control measures. And 64% of the UK advisers and 61% in France said they now feel more proud to be involved in agriculture.

“From the survey it is apparent that COVID-19 has led to greater creativity in how advisers have been running their business to continue to meet their clients’ needs,” says Catherine Bras-Sionneau, Kynetec’s executive director of custom research. “In terms of longer-term changes as a consequence of the pandemic, the farm advisers surveyed anticipate that there will be more virtual farmer client consultations, plus an increased consumer preference to buy local.”

A full copy of the survey and quantitative results by country is available by emailing catherine.bras-sionneau@kynetec.com

• The farmer survey found farm business avoided shortages in farm inputs through earlier ordering, advanced planning and utilising alternative sources. But most across the six countries were pessimistic over the current outlook for agriculture and the speed of economic post-lockdown recovery.

“We can be reassured that farmers have adapted their ways of working to ensure business as usual, minimising risks around food supply and security,” added Ms Bras-Sionneau.