IN TIMES of stress, the old adage is 'avoid', 'alter', 'accept' or 'adapt'. Well, in the past two weeks, this industry has shown that it can do all four!

Because of its inherent isolation factor, it can largely 'avoid' the plague of coronavirus; it has shown that it can 'alter' the way it works – on-line breeding sales are on the way – it has 'accepted' that change is inevitable and it is 'adapting' to meet the various long-term challenges that will, inevitably, come as a result of Covid-19's restrictions.

What it will not be able to avoid, though, will be the consequence that a great deal of people will be out of work and that many of those in work, will be working for less. Inevitably, there will be a reduction in cash around.

However, the faint hope remains that, as in the financial crash of 2008, the Great British Public actually bought more and better quality food. The reasoning being that white goods, motor cars and new home extensions became unimportant, and the reality was that food became a No 1 driver of household economy. Food became embedded as a 'must have', rather than a new iPhone.

This is different. This time, the tectonic plates of food supply and demand have shifted so radically, that there will have to be major re-adjustments in 'how the world works,' with consequential impacts on agriculture.

The catering trade has been almost obliterated and the losses sustained by those in this precarious trade, of both large and small operators, will see many of them wiped out. That has implications for farming and food processors.

For lamb, the high flying trade of January to early March has been forgotten and illustrates quite starkly the reality check that the removal of a thriving export market to other European countries will have. Prices have been hauled back by at least £30-£40 per head and that must be a pointer to what will happen if the EU trade negotiations for our Brexit (almost forgotten about them!) don't go well for free trade to the EU.

However, I hear from many in the cattle finishing business that meat processing businesses may well be over-egging the change in circumstances regarding the loss of the hospitality/burger/school meals markets to hold down prices. There is everything to suggest that a massive shift to consumers buying more meat will have balanced this.

As one major finisher told The SF, people haven't stopped eating burgers – they're making them at home – and while they may have stopped going out to eat, they have been buying meat to consume at home. There is certainly smoke and mirrors at play here and a lot of mince being talked!

In other words, the argument is that there is just as much meat being bought, but maybe in different ways. Likewise with milk, having witnessed row upon row of empty shelves in a supermarket usually brimming with the white stuff, it is just a need for the processors to accept, alter and adapt, rather than avoid!