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Coronavirus: Mass farming rally among industry events postponed due to outbreak

PUBLISHED: 15:48 13 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:48 13 March 2020

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers' Union, which has postponed its planned mass rally in London due to the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers' Union, which has postponed its planned mass rally in London due to the coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Sonya Duncan

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A planned mass rally of farmers in London is one of a number of industry events to be postponed due to fears over the spread of coronavirus.

Hundreds of farmers from across the country were expected to gather in Westminster on March 25 to call on the government to protect their industry from cheap imports in post-Brexit trade deals.

However, organisers feel the large public event could have risked spreading coronavirus so, with the number of cases still rising, the National Farmers' Union (NFU) has postponed the rally until a later date, yet to be decided.

NFU president Minette Batters said: 'While necessary, this is of course disappointing news. However, farmers and the public can rest assured that our campaign to ensure that our standards of food production are not undermined in future trade deals continues apace.'

Many other events are planned across East Anglia during the coming weeks, including agricultural conferences, machinery sales and the start of the agricultural showing season. While the government has stopped short of banning large public gatherings in its revised guidance this week, some organisers are following the lead of some major sports and entertainment venues by pro-actively postponing events.

In Norfolk, Agri-TechE has made the 'difficult decision' to postpone its Controlled Environment Agriculture meeting, which was due to take place on March 18 at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. The event is due to be rescheduled later this year.

And NFU East Anglia has cancelled a series of Basic Payment Scheme meetings up until April 10, including a scheduled event at Dunston Hall Hotel in Norwich on March 23.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: How will the outbreak affect food and farming?

So far, the outbreak has not affected events in Norfolk's agricultural show season. Organisers of July's Royal Norfolk Show have issued a statement saying they 'take very seriously the welfare and safety of all participants' and will 'monitor the situation and follow any further official advice and direction as and when it is issued'.

There was similar message from the Wayland Show at Watton - one of the earliest scheduled events on the show calendar on May 3. Organisers said they are monitoring all the available advice on a day-to-day basis, but as things stand they hope the event will go ahead as planned.

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