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Last weekend, my wife and I were asked by my daughter whether anything like the current pandemic situation had happened before in our lifetime. We pointed out that we remembered queuing up for sugar (but not for toilet rolls) in the early 1970s and also remembered when there was a mass recession, also in the 1970s, as a result of the cuts in oil production by members of OPEC and the resultant massive increase in the price of oil. And of course, there was the three-day working week as a result of coal miner strikes – again in the 1970s. In fact, the 1970s were clearly not quite as idyllic as I remembered them… However, when prompted as to whether I remembered Spanish Flu, I did point out that despite killing millions of people, this event was immediately after the First World War and that not even her Great Grandfather would have remembered that occasion!

"...the 1970s were clearly not quite as idyllic as I remembered them..."

We are therefore going through times unprecedented in living memory (but not in history), and we should not be surprised that we are not absolutely sure how to react to what we are seeing on the TV news, hearing on the radio, or reading on our social media feeds. Hence, if someone sees a video of a run on toilet rolls, it may seem entirely reasonable to start stockpiling, even if there is not a stop in their production and despite there being an almost unlimited supply of recycled paper from which they can be made. Likewise, despite problems with the human race, cows are still producing milk and therefore milk shortages in the absence of hoarding are unlikely.

What I do remember about the incidents in the 1970s was a sense of calm about the situation. Perhaps people in those days remembered post-war rationing and had become used to strikes but queuing for food items and petrol was done a relatively orderly way without the mass panic that has seemed so prevalent over the last couple of weeks.

Working for a company that makes products to help both the health and nutrition of people around the world, I am acutely aware how easy it is to become blasé about the supply of both, until a situation arises like that we are currently experiencing comes along.  Suddenly, it becomes important to not only ensure a constant supply of pharmaceutical and consumer health products, but also products that farmers and growers need to grow our food, be it seed, crop protection products, fertilisers, and machinery, etc.

Not surprisingly therefore, my colleagues are becoming increasingly aware that there is a growing unease regarding the continuity of supply of crop protection products and seeds from Bayer Crop Science and presumably other companies. In reality, our production facilities are working as normally as is humanly possible; this is not an insignificant effort on their part, and we are incredibly impressed at the effort of our employees coming into work in France and Germany on their own accord – a massive commitment for the bigger cause. Whilst it is impossible to be certain about what might happen in the longer term, it is great to be in the situation of being able to say that everything we have ordered is scheduled to come in “normally”. It would be terrible to have a toilet roll scenario with the purchase of crop protection products or seed in this country. We would ask everyone to be calm at least on this subject recognising that calmness is contagious.

“…it is great to be in the situation of being able to say that everything we have ordered is scheduled to come in “normally”.

I have always said that the quality and environmental credentials of food produced in the UK and Ireland is second to none; what has become abundantly clear as a result of the current crisis is that a high volume of food produced in the UK and Ireland is also incredibly important. I am convinced that the subject of food security is not lost on the Government now, but please don’t hesitate to remind them of the fact whenever you get the chance!

“…the subject of food security is not lost on the Government now, but please don’t hesitate to remind them of the fact whenever you get the chance!”

Please keep you and your family and friends safe during these uncertain times.

 

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