NFU Scotland has issued an open letter thanking the nation for the support that it has shown for Scottish farming, food and drink throughout the Covid-19 pandemic – and farmers and crofters have been proud to serve them.
Many of those supermarkets, shops and stores who have strived to serve their customers the very best in local, Scottish food and drink in the past four months have been rewarded by strengthening sales and enhanced customer loyalty.
A positive from the pandemic has been confirmation that food and drink supply chains, where risk and reward is shared fairly between all those who are producing, processing, retailing and buying the food can be achieved.
As we start to emerge from Covid-19 and prepare for the nation’s departure from the European Union, several major retailers have already taken the opportunity to provide reassurances to their customers and their Scottish and UK suppliers that, where possible, greater volumes of food and drink will be sourced locally and standards will be upheld.
However, unsubstantiated reports this week of a major supermarket pressurising its suppliers to reduce prices have justifiably set alarm bells ringing in the industry. Such a destructive approach would drive value out of the food and drink chain and the impact would go all the way back to the farm gate.
The open letter – available to read on the NFUS website.
It urges Scotland’s shoppers to ‘vote with their feet’ and stand by those retailers, shops and stores that are standing side-by-side with Scotland’s farmers and crofters.
NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said
I have written this open letter to the Scottish public to personally thank them for their ongoing support of Scottish farmers, growers and crofters during this health crisis. At the outset of the pandemic, I vowed that Scottish farming would play its part in the nation’s response by keeping high quality, locally-produced food and drink on our tables and I am proud of the way that the whole of Scotland’s food and drink industry has stepped up.
The messages from the pandemic on food security have been crystal clear and the reward for many of those supermarkets, stores and shops that have been able to adapt and trade food and drink safely has been a surge in sales, a growing customer base and a great platform to build on as we emerge from the pandemic and prepare for Brexit and trade deals.
We have warmly welcomed the pledge from several retailers of increased support for Scottish and British farmers in an uncertain future and more than a million consumers have signed a petition calling on the UK government to preserve our food production and animal welfare standards in any future trade deals.
However, if unsubstantiated reports that a major food retailer is looking to its suppliers to reduce prices or re-tender for business at this time, that would be a kick in the teeth to Scottish farmers and crofters. It suggests that despite a phenomenal increase in turnover, the reward that the retailer could deliver to those producing food and drink is to increase their burden on risk and reduce their share of the reward. We believe that is wholly unacceptable.
We are thanking the public and asking them to continue to show support for our domestic food production by writing to their elected politicians and retailers on the vital importance of home produce. We ask them to highlight that our production standards must be protected now and in the future, and that they want enhanced country of origin labelling so they can buy Scottish or British when given the choice.
Small steps can make a big difference and the public has the ability to vote with their feet and support those businesses where the best interests of Scottish food and farming are being served.