Machinery and contractor groups: Interconnected sectors ‘critical’ to food production

European groups representing agricultural machinery manufacturers, distributors, dealers and agri contractors have committed their support to farmers and cooperatives across Europe for food security amid ongoing challenges with Covid-19.

In a joint statement, European agricultural machinery association CEMA, the European organisation of agricultural, rural and forestry contractors CEETTAR, and European agricultural machinery distributors’ group CLIMMAR voiced their backing to the agricultural sector at this time to ensure the supply of food to citizens.

In the statement, the three groups said: “Our interconnected sectors are critical to the continuity of our daily lives and have rightly been recognised as such by many EU member states.”

Welcoming last week’s video conference of agricultural ministers to discuss the impact of Covid-19, the groups said:

We collectively see the protection of the health and safety of our employees and customers as our utmost priority.

The three groups welcomed social distancing guidelines issued and best practices “while ensuring that our facilities remain open for production, distribution, maintenance and contracting as much as possible”.

“Simply put, if farmers do not have access to ordered equipment, services and spare-parts, their work – and therefore production capabilities – will stop.”

To avoid such a scenario, the joint statement said:

Our borders need to remain open for traffic and trade, and agricultural machinery and their spare parts / servicing must be eligible to green fast lanes.

It was added that express service parts deliveries must be considered a priority across the EU by express carriers, while governmental inspection of machines must happen when needed to get access to distribution.

Servicing and maintenance to agricultural machinery by agricultural dealerships and mechanisation companies “must be guaranteed to continue on a 24/7 basis”, especially in this seeding, planting and harvesting period, it was stressed.

In order to provide this, the groups said it is essential to:
  • Have continuous access to agricultural machinery, spare parts and components;
  • Ensure an “open border” policy towards service technicians and international cross-border traffic and distribution of machinery, spare parts and components;
  • Designate the sector of agricultural dealerships and mechanisation companies as a crucial and critical sector within the whole food production and supply-chain;
  • Designate the profession of “technician / mechanic” as a critical one in order to maintain the production capacity;
  • Provide clear information on how these critical workers can continue their job in a safe way.

The groups stressed that production facilities of agricultural machinery, components and spare parts “must clearly be included and kept by member states in the list of critical sectors” in the food supply chain so that companies can retain the ability to produce and ship, as long as safety measures are adhered to.

On the contracting side of things, it was highlighted that agricultural contractors must be allowed to deliver services “and be hired for emergency solutions when the capabilities of the farmers are impacted under Covid-19”.

It was added that agri contractors carry out a wide range of work and “contribute to a better use of resources by saving costs; provide more profitability for farming activities; and more environmental protection.

They also employ skilled workers specially trained for driving and working with agricultural and non-road machinery by using the newest technology, the associations said.

FCI backing

The Irish member of CEETTAR, the Association of Farm & Forestry Contractors in Ireland (FCI), said it fully supports the statement put out by the three organisations.

Stressing the importance of the role of agricultural contractors in keeping the show on the road for Irish agriculture, the FCI said it backs the points made in the statement.