Market chair Sarah Burchell this week revealed that she and her fellow stallholders are facing up to 40 per cent drops in their income this year due to the impact of Covid-19. She described the decision to stop the monthly markets across this region as ‘major’ for her own Annanwater products, saying: “We sell everything we produce through farmers markets and as it is hogget and mutton it is really not an option to switch to livestock markets.”
Despite now offering doorstep deliveries as far afield as Edinburgh and Glasgow, it has been time consuming and only reaches a small proportion of regular customers. Sarah said: “But this way we continue to maintain a degree of that person to person contact which is so integral to selling at farmers markets and we are selling a fair amount of meat. But our income looks likely to be between 30 and 40 per cent down compared to the same period last year.”
Along with most small food producers, they have not qualified for any of the support schemes and are waiting to see if the Scottish Government will come up with one that will fit. Sarah said: “All the producers who go to the market have undergone considerable trauma and have had to make dramatic changes in their business models. Many are doing what we are doing, some have set up e-commerce sites, many had to cease production altogether for weeks because sourcing ingredients was impossible.”
And a further loss loss of income is on the horizon as a result of multiple cancellations of music and food festivals, agricultural and craft shows this summer. “Many farmers market producers rely on these events to boost their annual takings and see them through the winter months,” she said.
Meanwhile, plans are afoot to restart Moffat Farmers’ Market on Sunday July 12, as a food-only outdoor market, with ‘meticulous’ physical distancing and precautions. She is liaising with trading standards and the police to ensure the event complies with all legislation and guidance and said: “We want to encourage as many customers as can do to place orders with individual producers before the market for collection at the market, this will ease the flow of people.
“We also hope that people will consider shopping for any neighbours who can’t get out. The market will arrange delivery of orders from anyone unable to get to the market who is without such neighbours.”
Thanking customers who have continued to support her, Sarah added: “Dumfries and Galloway has a uniquely large number of small and micro food businesses which together with hospitality businesses make up a significant part of the local economy. They have been heartened by much support they have had from the public and very much hope that once it becomes easier to pop to the supermarket people will remain loyal and continue to buy local.”