CORONAVIRUS is having an impact on all businesses and industries – now the National Sheep Association (NSA) has raised concerns about the impact on farming.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “We can only start from a position of absolute respect and commitment to the measures put in place to reduce the spread of the Covid -19 virus.

"It is the number one priority that the health of society is protected at this time. However, the result is proving highly damaging for many businesses, and industries, and the sheep farming sector is now amongst these.”

The NSA is growing more concerned about market prices and the knock-on effect this will have to farming communities.

Mr Stocker said: “The shutdown is having a really damaging impact on the sheep trade now. The trade collapsed at the start of this week with prices down by £1 per kg liveweight – on a 45kg lamb that’s between £40 and £50 a head less, on a value that was maybe just over the £100 mark.

“The main underlying reason is the closure of the restaurant and catering trade, both here and in the EU, and the heavy reliance we have on lamb being a ‘fine dining’ product.

"We are hearing of export loads now being cancelled – and here at home, the supply chains that serve the catering trade and the domestic supermarket trade are quite different.

"We made Defra aware of this issue and the reasons behind it last Saturday morning, and now it’s become apparent that it is having the same, if not worse, impact on the sheep dairy trade with many with a perishable product having no market at all.”

Greg Dalton a sheep farmer in Upper Weardale said: “The market price took a dramatic nosedive at the beginning of the week. Hopefully this is going to be a short-term thing.

"British farmers are well suited to a crisis, we had the wartime footing of ‘dig for Britain’ so we can get through this.

"Hopefully there will be no long-term effects. It has made the government look harder at UK agriculture instead of relying on imports.

"I am certain farmers will be able to supply the population with what they need, we are very fortunate as an industry because people always need to eat. I hope the local traders are there when this is all over, it has been damaging for local businesses.”

The NSA will be exploring options with Government as the situation develops.