Covid-19 crisis shows importance of buying British, report says

A local and sustainable food supply chain in the UK has 'never been more crucial', farmers have said in a new report
A local and sustainable food supply chain in the UK has 'never been more crucial', farmers have said in a new report

British consumers are being urged to buy local as the Covid-19 crisis has shown the importance of localised food supply chains, a new report states.

The UK food supply chain is 'intrinsically connected' to farmers, the environment and local economies, the report, released today (16 April), underlines.

It comes as many farm businesses have been forced to adapt overnight to deal with sudden disruptions and increasing demand from local communities.

On top of those challenges, farmers are concerned that future trade deals could soon undercut the high standards set up by the British farming industry.

Now the Nature Friendly Farming Network has used the current crisis to highlight the importance of prioritising a sustainable and localised food supply chain.

Martin Lines, chair of the NFFN, said: “The sight of empty supermarket shelves and fears of labour shortages show how much farmers need consumer support.

"The Covid-19 crisis demonstrates how intrinsically connected farmers are to local economies and the environment.

"When people buy produce straight from a local and sustainable farmer, they’re also protecting their community and wildlife.”

To highlight the importance of sustainable food during a pandemic, the group has showcased some measures that farmers are doing to help local communities.

David Walston, an arable farmer in Cambridgeshire, has set up CoVeg to provide space on his farm for the community to grow and source vegetables which otherwise may not be available.

Scottish livestock farmer Jock Gibson has partnered up with local businesses to launch a new national delivery service so that vulnerable people don’t need to wait weeks to receive their supermarket orders.

Elsewhere, Polly Davies, a mixed farmer in Glamorgan, has nearly doubled her delivery service for nearby villages, prioritising NHS staff and picking up medicines and other essentials for customers self-isolating.

Charlie Cole, from Broughgammon Farm, Northern Ireland, said localised supply chains are 'far more robust and resilient' than those of the supermarket that involve importing food from abroad.

"We should use this opportunity to seek out small, local independent businesses and give them the support they need to survive. A localised economy benefits all, not just the retailer,” she said.

How can I support farmers during Covid-19 crisis?

The NFFN's report shares some measures the public can follow to support farmers during the coronavirus outbreak.

• Shop local and sustainable. Buy fresh, seasonal and sustainable produce from your local online farm shop or market.

• Work or volunteer on a farm. The UK is facing a potential shortage of 80,000 workers due to Covid-19. If you have the time, find your local farms to help harvest the food for the nation.

• Try not to waste. Over 1/3 of food around the world is thrown away. It’s important not to stockpile food that will go to waste. Make sure you plan your shopping trips carefully, buy only what you need, and use up leftovers.