Coronavirus is affecting all – both as individuals in everyday life and on the more massive lines of trade and business. Danish agriculture is, of course, also affected, and the consequences can be far-reaching.
COVID-19 pandemic’ impacts on Danish farmers’ daily activity
Overall, the Danish agricultural sectors seem more or less stable; there has not been reported any more significant changes in export/imports from most of the segments – increase in the domestic retail seems to mitigate some of the losses. The main concern appears to be related to labour. More of the sectors have expressed concerns regarding access to labour – currently, Denmark is not experiencing significant issues with labour although, many industries emphasize worries in this respect; restrictions on the mobility of production labour could be of serious concern. Moreover, the sectors are concerned about how to keep production staff safe and healthy during the outbreak. Frictionless movement of goods and labour is a key priority.
In the Beef and Veal sector, there is seen an increase in retail purchase – especially for minced meet. However, the more expensive premium cuts, which is usually purchased by food services is not transmitted 1:1, i.e. retail is not picking up on this part of goods and thus, these cuts instead end up in cold storage.
Likewise, the dairy sector experiences an increase in retail-sectors demand.
Sanitation measures at DAFC Members’ Farms
The Danish Agriculture & Food Council (DAFC) are promoting within the Danish rural community the following measures to mitigate the spread of the virus and still maintain production level:
- Place signs regarding sanitation measures, adopted by the Danish Health Authority, which the DAFC promotes.
- Some visits on the farm are inevitable such as veterinarians and drivers. However, these visits should follow the general advice of safety measures.
- If possible, visits should be cancelled or postponed – counselling could be done via Skype or similar platforms.
- Clean surfaces regularly, especially after visits.
- Use delivery facilities when supplying animals. As far as possible, do not assist in the pick-up.
Limit the infection risk for personal:
- Inform employees on the general safety rules which the Danish Authorities have presented.
- Keep distance, wash hands frequently and use paper towels, lunch breaks etc. should be held separately to prevent ‘group gatherings’.
- If the stable is divided into sections, then contact amongst employees can be limited by placing them within these sectors.
- For shift work, e.g. in the milking parlour, all surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected before next shift, and in general clean all surfaces; Lunchroom, toilets, etc.
- If any employees or others should become sick, they should stay at home until they are feeling well.
- Establish a work-emergency-schedule if more employees should become sick – In that case, the farmer is better prepared. However, it is also okay to ask neighbours etc. for help.
COVID-19 pandemic’ challenges in the Danish agricultural sector
At the given moment, Denmark’s most impacted agricultural sectors are flowers and plants as well as fruit and vegetables.
General issues that most of the Danish agricultural sectors report back regard transport – Especially export to third countries where border issues and delayed documentation seems to be a common issue for all industries. However, the most crucial point in all sectors is to secure the transport of goods and workers across borders. In the EU, this has been guaranteed via so-called ‘Green Lanes’ for trucks.
The Beef and Veal sector reports a significant decrease in exports to the southern part of Europe during the outbreak. The Danish Beef and Veal sector reports that regarding third countries, there have been delays in documentation and transit is slowing down the export. However, goods are still being shipped. Moreover, the Danish dairy sector also expresses concerns about documentation for transport (export). The dairy sector is currently also concerned whether there will be access to enough containers etc.
DAFC’s initiative to help Danish farmers tackle the COVID-19 pandemic challenges
Since the situation around Coronavirus is continuously evolving, DAFC is constantly updating its institutional website with information on how to act – both as a farmer, employer, and businessman:
As employer within the agricultural sector, DAFC offers guidance on how to handle the crisis about wages, holidays, increased support, etc. Furthermore, DAFC has prepared a template on the newest recommendations from the Danish authorities, which the employer can hand out to employees and an information sheet on the Corona crisis.
DAFC also keeps its members informed on foreign labour – amongst others, how the border-situation is, how to handle interns (prolonging their internship), travel restrictions etc. To this, DAFC also refers to a poster, which can be hung up at workplaces. That is available in seven different languages and thus helps to overcome language barriers in the fight of the Coronavirus.
To help employers, DAFC also focuses on the available help-packages, including guidance on how to fill in applications, and provide wage compensations.
To highlight the opportunities for business owners, DAFC also refers to, e.g. compensation for the company’s fixed costs lost profit, and financing SME’s. Furthermore, DAFC updates its members on extensions on different applications and reports.
Moreover, DAFC provides information on how to tackle virus infection and infection protection – this includes guidance on how to tackle it on farm level; How to limit the risk on the farm and for employees. For example, it is stated that some service personal is still needed – veterinarians, drivers, etc. should therefore always be allowed access, but follow the official guidelines. For dairy sectors, it is suggested that the pit is cleaned and disinfected before the next shift, and further limit the risk of infections by dividing the stable and staff into sections.
Furthermore, DAFC shares relevant articles regarding wage compensations, SME’s position and how to handle lost costs, and about the extension of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) application for direct payments, etc. as well as guidance on how to keep the business running through digital services.
Danish government in support of farmers under COVID-19 emergency conditions
It should be underlined, that the key priority for both national and European authorities should be to preserve frictionless EU single market and secure the free movement of goods across borders via ‘Green Lanes’.
The Danish Premier Minister, and the Minister of Food, have expressed that the abovementioned is a key priority.
It should be emphasized, that timely EU CAP-payments are essential, despite the prolongation of the aid application period, and the necessary flexibility when it comes to controlling and ‘On the Spot Checks’.
The Danish Agriculture and Food Council strongly oppose the introduction of mandatory supply management.