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Food producers call for support to continue

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By Fiona Reid
Farming
Food producers call for support to continue

FOOD producers from the region have been describing how their businesses and lives have been turned upside down by the coronavirus.

Sharing his experience, Ronnie Graham, of Barony Country Foods in Lochmaben, said they have gone from being primarily a wholesale producer, selling 90 per cent of their produce into local hotels and restaurants, to being a 100 per cent retail supplier with all sales coming from the shop, home deliveries or mail order.
He said: “This has been an astonishing change to our customer base and has not been without its ups and downs.”

“We are very, very lucky compared to most because we have been able to change our business and keep going. My heart goes out to every person running a hospitality business right now.”
Describing the rollercoaster of the last few weeks, he added: “When this crisis hit it was difficult to know where to turn. As a small business you put so much of yourself into what you do, and when you think you’re going to lose absolutely everything it’s a terrible time. It’s actually difficult to explain just how hard that is.
“One thing I would say to local people is, please don’t forget about us when life starts to return to normal. Food production is a real strength of our local economy, and we need local people to continue to support it.”

Roan’s Dairy is another company that has continued trading throughout lockdown and Tracey Roan said: “When the lockdown was announced our family business changed completely. We lost almost all of our trade customers overnight, and the demand for doorstep milk delivery exploded. We had been working hard for years to build up our customer numbers but when you are small family-run business, operating in a rural area like Dumfries and Galloway there are big logistical challenges in delivering to rural homes.

“Demand for our milk, cream and other local products stretched our storage facilities to capacity, but we knew that to serve our community we had to find a way to meet demand. When the supermarkets shut their doors to new online deliveries in this area, we literally worked night and day to make sure no one went without.
“Yes, this has meant fast growth, but it’s been challenging, and wondering whether all our customers will stick with us after lockdown is a worry.

“Seeing how local businesses have adapted here in Dumfries and Galloway to the coronavirus is a credit to the region.”

They both took part in a consultation event last week led by Dumfries and Galloway’s food and drink brand Savour the Flavours to discuss emerging issues and challenges.
And as a result, Savour the Flavours is calling on people across the region to support local businesses as lockdown starts to ease.

Spokeswoman Liz Ramsay said: “Our region’s local businesses swung into action to meet the needs of our communities when lockdown hit. It was fantastic to see so many businesses going the extra mile to make sure that vulnerable people, particularly in rural areas, had deliveries of the products they needed. It must be remembered, when the big supermarkets closed their online doors to many people in this region – our local businesses stepped up and did an absolutely amazing job.

“My big concern now is how exposed these businesses are. Businesses might look busy, but I can absolutely guarantee people that no-one is ‘benefiting’ from this crisis. Many of these businesses have changed their trading models completely, which has huge financial implications. Several have needed to source new equipment or staff to manage demand, and all will have experienced cashflow challenges.

“I know for a fact that several local businesses have put people ahead of profit by running at a loss to meet the home delivery needs of people in rural areas.
“So we’re calling on the people of Dumfries and Galloway to now look out for our local businesses by, wherever possible, buying local and supporting local.

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