‘We want to keep shelves stocked’ says farmers union president
The president of the farmers union in Scotland (NFUS) Andrew McCornick has said the agricultural industry will strive to keep plates and glasses full of food and drink as further measures are being put in place to handle the coronavirus outbreak.
Mr McCornick said: “These are unprecedented times and the sight of empty shelves in some stores, both large and small, clearly illustrates the uncertainty and worry that many in our society are facing. We want to keep those shelves stocked.
“Farmers and crofters, and the wider food and drink sector across Scotland will deliver on food security and will work tirelessly to maintain all necessary supply chains to keep shelves full.
“Discussions with Scottish Government and other key stakeholders are already drilling down on key areas. The ability to get crucial supplies like animal feed, fuel, fertiliser and seed onto farms; the need for livestock, milk, eggs, cereals, veg to get to market; keeping livestock markets, abattoirs and food manufacturing sites open and working; getting those goods processed and delivered onto a shelf, whether it be a farm shop, a local store or a supermarket. Local businesses, both on farm and in the villages and towns, will undoubtedly value consumers’ support at this time.
“Huge problems around labour are looming large, particularly for our soft fruit and veg growers with novel ways of seeking staff for farms being considered. Those who have lost their jobs or are on unpaid leave in the hospitality sector are being sought to allow planting and harvesting to be undertaken.
“In times of crisis, Scottish farmers and crofters have always proved themselves to be innovative, adaptable and resilient. This time is no different.
“However, the way we will play our part in keeping food and drink flowing has changed in this current crisis, and we have the systems in place. We have already taken the responsible decision that NFU Scotland Head Office staff will work from home and any meetings or gatherings are suspended so all the work will be getting done in a different way.
“Modern technology now gives all our professional staff the ability to work effectively using teleconferencing, video conferencing, email, social media, mobile phones, laptops and more, meaning daily contact with Government, key industry stakeholders, internal contacts and our members is as seamless as possible.
“With difficult decisions being made on an hourly basis, technology provides us with the platforms to remain fully informed and engaged on all the key issues that are currently being discussed with urgency and at the highest level.
“The technology and goodwill exists to make this work, and the desire is there from everyone at NFUS to be pushing on, ensuring the best support and representation of the industry at all levels on all issues continues unabated.
“We also urge our community to look out for one another at this time, especially those who may be vulnerable or isolated, without access to internet, phone or mobile signal that many take for granted.
“And a reminder for those who need emotional, practical or financial support in times of need, our rural charity RSABI is there to support people in Scottish agriculture and can be contacted on 0300 111 4166.