If all goes according to plan, the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions will begin on October the 22nd.
This will be a welcome relief to many. However, as we begin to return to normal, there is still a shortage of labour across many industries, particularly the hospitality sector. It is not unusual to see many jobs advertised looking for full time staff. Add to this the reduced number of road hauliers and the short supply of parts, a challenge still remains within our own industry.
There is a real concern within the farming and horticultural sector of labour shortages. This should be a concern to our own industry as these are the sectors that we sell our machines into. It is not in our interest to see farmers or fruit and vegetable growers go out of business. IFA horticulture spokesperson, Paul Brophy who was recently interviewed on national media said “if labour issues are not tackled, they will be the “unwinding of the industry”. He went on to say that “Irish horticulturalists are operating businesses that are ‘built on sand’, as concerns around labour shortages mount”.
Pressure has been put on the government from the horticultural sector to invest more in the industry. In response, Agricultural Minister Charlie McConalogue said “the development of Ireland’s horticultural sector is a priority and has been laid out in the Food Vision 2030 strategy. This year, for example, we have increased the budget for the sector by 50% for the scheme for investment aid which allows businesses and growers to receive grant aid for capital investment and specialist equipment…”
Yet, despite these challenges I am hopeful that we will be in good shape in the months ahead. I think that the domestic lawncare market, in particular, will improve as people spend the savings that they have accumulated during the pandemic. It is anticipated that a lot of cash will work its way back into the economy over the next few months, especially after the restrictions are lifted on October the 22nd.
As an indication of this improvement, recent figures released by the European Agricultural Machinery association (CEMA) show an increase in agricultural tractor registrations for the first six months of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020. According to CEMA’s data, Ireland showed a 26% increase in vehicle registrations. You can read more about this in detail in this edition of Service Dealer Ireland.
The strange thing about Covid-19 is that it has changed the way we live, probably forever. Like the development of technology, for example, we often ask ourselves “how did we live without mobile phones?” or “where would we be without the internet?” When we look back at the pandemic in years to come we will probably say “only for Covid-19 we would never have Zoom meetings or virtual trade shows or work remotely from home”.
The reality within our own industry is that we will probably revert back to near normal life, i.e. having face to face exhibitions and trade shows, have demonstration days on farms. Most of the work will be carried out at the dealers premises, except, perhaps, some administration staff may choose to work from home on some of the days. But you can’t repair machines remotely or attend a customer’s needs in a virtual setting. You need that human interaction to run a successful business.