AS farmers, crofters and growers continue to play an essential role in feeding the nation through the Covid-19 virus, the National Farmers Union of Scotland has written to the UK and Scottish agri-ministers to ask that they put a 'fresh focus' on getting primary producers a better deal from a food supply chain currently dominated by huge retail chains.

NFUS president Andrew McCornick may feel that he is pushing against an open door, following both the Scottish and UK governments issuing messages of support to the agriculture, food and drink sectors before the weekend.

While Mr McCornick stressed the importance of governments and industry right now 'working as one' to ensure an adequate supply of food and beverages on supermarket and shop shelves, he also highlighted the role retailers must play in giving primary producers the confidence to continue producing during volatile times.

Thanking both ministers for the support and engagement of their departments and officials during this crisis, Mr McCornick wrote: “Over generations, we as primary producers have demonstrated that agriculture is uniquely placed to overcome adversity, volatility and crisis, whether man-made or in animal or human health. The national effort to overcome the worst impacts of the Covid-19 virus is no different.

“I have been impressed with the innovation of the supply chain to rebalance lost markets in export and food service with the unprecedented demand in the retail sector. However, in sectors where the loss of these markets has presented a particular challenge, we believe more could be done by retailers to meet the realignment of distribution that the market needs in this crisis," he stated.

“It is more important than ever that guaranteed contracts, payment on delivery and price transparency are instilled in dealings between retailers and their suppliers to ensure fairness through the whole supply chain and back to the primary producer, so we can all meet the challenges and responsibilities presented Covid-19.”

Mr McCornick added: “These are unprecedented times, with all sectors of the economy having to adapt to a radically altered operating environment. Our industry is playing a vital role in keeping the nation fed and watered through this crisis and in recent weeks, NFUS has been in daily correspondence with both of our governments, as well as organisations representing the whole of the food and drink industry, to ensure that the supply chain continues to function effectively.

“Fairness, transparency and trust throughout the supply chain are not new issues to NFUS – much work has been done on this before the impact of the COVID-19 virus, and their importance has fresh focus as our sector plays its part in the wider societal effort to meet the challenges presented by COVID-19," he said. “If we can get this right, and with the continued support of both governments, then our industry is well placed to meet these challenges."

For in-depth news and views on Scottish agriculture, see this Friday’s issue of The Scottish Farmer or visit