Livestock Policy Manager's Blog - 19 June 2020

With food and drink such a huge part of the Highland Show success story, the opportunity to meet supermarkets at this year’s event may have been lost but retailer engagement throughout Covid-19 is stronger than ever writes Livestock Policy Manager John Armour.

Since the start of COVID-19 restrictions, it has been clear that the large national multiple retailers have seen demand increase, in the face of the near-shutdown of the hospitality sector.  This market redistribution inevitably had impacts on the agri-food supply chains, as did the shifts in shopper behaviour as bulk buying and infrequent shopping became the norm.

Like me, millennials and zoomers (people born in the late 1990s and early 2000s) have had to get used to making a weekly shopping list, and are likely learning more about storing and preparing their food than they had ever had to do when they were going to the supermarket three to four times a week.

NFU Scotland has engaged strongly with some of the nations largest retailers who were keen to discuss the challenges facing Scottish and British agri-food, recognising the social responsibility for all stakeholders to understand the impacts of such an unprecedented situation to fresh food production.  Other retailers have been more challenging to get around the virtual table with.

Is disappointing that not everybody involved in retailing and producing food wants to get involved in the national conversation which is currently taking place about the importance of how we produce what we eat and drink.  However, it’s reassuring to see so many organisations backing the calls to protect UK production standards in future trade deals, and we are proudly supporting the one-million strong petition by the NFU to say just that to the people in power

One of the big public draws to the Royal Highland Show in recent years has been the Food Hall, which is a clear demonstration of the vibrant food culture that we have here in Scotland.  

While missing out on the ability to wander and graze from stand to stand getting to taste the best of Scotland, I have been reassured by the phenomenal adaptability of smaller food businesses in responding to COVID-19 lockdown.  Many cafes, restaurants and farm shops have been able to quickly launch doorstep delivery services, while large swathes of the public have proudly posted on social media about the necessity of supporting local shops, local food and local producers.

The food shortages we saw in March should remind us all just how important food is, and how lucky we are to be able to produce it here.  

We need to use this as an opportunity to further enhance our food culture and protect our production standards, recognising the thousands of jobs created by the sector and its fantastic potential to grow.

Author: John Armour

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About The Author

John Armour

John is responsible for NFU Scotland’s livestock Policy. Serving the needs of the NFU Scotland Livestock Committee he works to ensure that the objectives of the Union are delivered in order to support beef and sheep farmers in Scotland. After growing up on a dairy farm John studied International Politics at University and went on to join the NFU Scotland Policy Team in 2014. He has previously worked on both food and milk policy within the Union.

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