Scarborough and Whitby MP explains effect of McDonald's closure on farmers and McCain Foods

Scarborough and Whitby MP Robert Goodwill has spoken about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the agricultural sector in his constituency.

By Corinne Macdonald
Wednesday, 13th May 2020, 4:18 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th May 2020, 4:20 pm
Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby. Picture: JPI Media
Robert Goodwill, MP for Scarborough and Whitby. Picture: JPI Media

The outbreak of the virus has impacted on every sector in the UK, including farming.

Mr Goodwill, a farmer since 1979, has been in talks with the president of the National Farmers Union (NFU) to discuss the effect the virus was having on farmers in his constituency.

Potato farmers have been particularly impacted by the closure of the hospitality sector such as fish and chip shops and by a drop in demand from McCain Foods.

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The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board estimates 188,576 tonnes of chipping potatoes have been impacted by market closures.

He said: “McCain Foods supplies roughly a third to retail, a third to food service and a third to McDonalds.

“The price for potatoes has crashed, in some instances those potatoes that are used for chips are around £50 a tonne whereas those that can be used for crisps are at £200 a tonne.”

Mr Goodwill said he had discussed with the NFU president his desire for McDonald’s to open up at least their Drive Thru outlets, which present the least challenge in terms of maintaining social distancing.

The NFU say: “[We are] aware that the closure of McDonalds is having an impact on the supply into McCains, and growers have been approached with a voluntary request to reduce their cropping area.

“Growers are encouraged to carefully check their contracts and contact NFU CallFirst if they have concerns.”

The continued closure of McDonald’s has the potential to affect more than just potato farmers, the MP said.

Around one third of beef produced in Ireland is sold to the fast food chain, leading to worries that if it doesn’t reopen soon shops may be flooded with product from Ireland.

Mr Goodwill said: “My worry would be that Irish beef will find its way on to supermarket shelves and British farmers will have to compete on price.”

The MP said whilst many dairies in the South West of England who supply milk to the catering industry have suffered due to lockdown restrictions, those across North Yorkshire are faring better as most supply directly to Arla, based in Leeds.

Last weekend, the NFU was successful in securing support from Government for dairy farmers affected by the outbreak, which has seen the loss of demand for around eight million litres of milk a week due to the closure of food service and hospitality outlets.

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