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Six changes Covid-19 is bringing to the rural economy that may outlast the crisis


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Gloves were the items of fashion during last week’s Ballinasloe cattle sales.                          Photo Kevin Byrne Photography

Gloves were the items of fashion during last week’s Ballinasloe cattle sales. Photo Kevin Byrne Photography

©Kevin Byrne Photography

The demand to use debit cards is set to increase. Stock image

The demand to use debit cards is set to increase. Stock image

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Gloves were the items of fashion during last week’s Ballinasloe cattle sales. Photo Kevin Byrne Photography

The coronavirus pandemic could have long-term implications for how we live and how the rural economy operates.

1 Rural towns

With many rural towns already struggling to keep afloat, the closure of small businesses will add to the pressure.

But social distancing queues have formed outside many butchers and greengrocers, as shoppers avoid busy supermarkets that have seen shelves emptied from panic buying.

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Artisan Butcher Brian Treacy, Ardnacrusha, Co Clare.  Photograph Liam Burke Burke/Press 22

Artisan Butcher Brian Treacy, Ardnacrusha, Co Clare. Photograph Liam Burke Burke/Press 22

Artisan Butcher Brian Treacy, Ardnacrusha, Co Clare. Photograph Liam Burke Burke/Press 22

Smaller, local food shops may get a new lease of life if further social restrictions are implemented and people form the habit of choosing to shop closer to home.

2 Food & drink

What we're buying has also changed as more and more people work from home.

Demand has swung away from cafes, restaurants and hotels to home-cooked meals, which may have a significant impact on processors, used to selling large amounts to a smaller number of buyers in the food-service sector.

3 Exports

A huge fall-off in demand from the food-service sector in Europe could significantly impact Irish beef exports.

With footfall drastically reduced in fast-food restaurants, Irish dairy and beef exporters will suffer. One in every five McDonald's burgers sold in Europe is made from Irish beef, while reduced demand for dairy from Asian food-service markets will impact world demand.

4 Cash

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The demand to use debit cards is set to increase. Stock image

The demand to use debit cards is set to increase. Stock image

The demand to use debit cards is set to increase. Stock image


For years cash has been king in farming and rural Ireland. However, that looks set to change irrevocably, as the demand to use cards increases for hygiene reasons.

But cash is still the preferred option for many, from the factory cheque to the ill-advised hidden cash at home. Rural Ireland for the most part still operates on a cash basis, but moving to a card-only society - even in the short-term - will speed up the demise of cash.

5 Marts

The closure of mart could have far-reaching implications on the cattle trade.

Up to now with restrictions on marts in place, it put increased pressure on the already beleaguered marts. The closure of marts from last night will mean farmers will have to look at new ways to offload and buy cattle. The role marts can play in this remains to be seen, but will be vital to their long-term surival.

6 Self-Isolation

The impositions around social distancing mean there's no longer a good chat with the neighbour popping in, or with other farmers about the price of cattle at the mart.

Instead, we've become wary of being in close proximity to people, afraid they may be carrying the virus.

Indo Farming