Open Letter to Scottish Shoppers – 8 July 2020

An open letter to Scottish consumers from NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick

Dear shopper,

I am writing this letter to thank you for your ongoing support for Scottish farmers, growers and crofters during this health crisis.  

The backing given to Scottish farming, food and drink throughout the pandemic has been unprecedented and reinforced how much you value healthy, nutritious, local produce and the standards to which it has been grown or reared.

As we emerge from the pandemic, and prepare for Brexit, we must ensure that the positive lessons on food security and standards are preserved.  

As food producers, we take great pride in what we produce.  We meet some of the highest production and welfare standards in the world and provide assurances through independent audits that guarantee the delivery of quality Scottish food and drink to your table.

At the start of the pandemic, I pledged that Scottish farmers and crofters would do everything they could to ensure that the nation’s plates and glasses remained full and we have stepped up to the challenge.   Our commitment has seen those supermarkets, stores and shops able to trade safely in the past four months rewarded with soaring sales for Scottish produce and growing customer numbers. In a recent trading update, one supermarket chain highlighted that sales had increased by around £1 billion during the 13 weeks to 30 May 2020.  

That is why we hope you understand our dismay in reading unconfirmed reports this week that a major food retailer is already looking to its suppliers to reduce prices.  Despite a phenomenal increase in turnover, it suggests that even less reward will be getting shared with processors and farmers who face more risk and cost than ever.

The way the food supply chain currently operates has had a profound impact on the returns to farmers for many years.

  • This month, the average price that dairy farmers will receive for milk will be around 27 pence per litre.  The average milk price received by farmers in July 1996 was 26.7 pence per litre.
  • A report on soft fruit has stated that strawberry values have ‘remained static’ since 1996 despite increasing grower costs.
  • Wholesale egg prices are the same today as they were in 2011.
  • The retail price of beef mince today is the same as it was in 2011.

With your support, we can ensure that risk and reward across the whole food supply chain – from farmgate to supermarket shelf – is shared fairly.

That would allow our industry to invest more in our children’s future by delivering climate friendly models of production whilst continuing to supply you with the very best in food and drink.

Major supermarkets have the luxury of being able to publish ‘profit warnings’ for its investors.  Unfortunately, for farmers in Scotland, there is no such protection arising from such a volatile and unpredictable marketplace.  We believe that Scottish and UK shoppers want a retail sector that delivers value for money, protects the environment, supports home-produced food and drink and rewards those that supply it fairly and equitably.

We also know that you want our outstanding standards of food production to be the cornerstone of any future trade deals done by the UK Government with a petition from all UK farming unions securing more than one million signatures.  

To back that outstanding level of support, I ask that you to further support our domestic food production by writing to your elected politicians and supermarkets on the importance of domestic production.

Highlight that you want our production standards to be protected now and in the future, and that you want enhanced country of origin labelling so that you can buy Scottish or British when given the choice.

We also seek your support in calling for retailers to deliver a fairer share of risk and reward to everyone in our food chain. Your backing for home-produced food and drink during this pandemic, and the response of farmers and crofters during the crisis shows that positive change is possible.

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 in the future are being served.  

  • Following publication of NFU Scotland’s open letter to Scottish shoppers, the Union received the following positive response from Aldi Supermarkets.  To read the response, click here

Author: Andrew McCornick

Date Published:

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About The Author

Andrew McCornick

Andrew, who is married with three sons and a daughter, was born and brought up on a dairy farm in Wigtown. Andrew and wife Janice farm their 230+ ha unit with 160 suckler cows and 600 breeding ewes with a small herd of pedigree Charolais cattle. Andrew's sons farm a nearby tenanted unit which frequently provides replacement breeding stock for Barnbackle. For as long as Andrew can remember, he has been a member of the Union, and got more involved when the consultation for Nithsdale NVZ came out. From there he went onto become vice chairman of the Dumfries branch, and then onto his previous role of Regional Board Chairman for Dumfries and Galloway. He also sat on the LFASS committee. Andrew was elected Vice President in February 2015.

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