THE Scottish seafood sector has responded to the coronavirus crisis by switching its focus to include direct selling in a push that also helps people in rural communities maintain vital provision.

The effort includes the launch of a “loch to door” delivery service.

As demand for delicacies such as langoustine, prawns and crab plummets due to the decimation of the export and hospitality markets, seafood businesses are establishing alternative ways to get valuable produce out.

In day three of our series examining how businesses have responded to the coronavirus crisis, the seafood sector comes under the spotlight.

Argyll-based Loch Fyne Oysters said that with the export market, which covers 50 per cent of its revenue, at a standstill and domestic demand dropping it moved to create its own delivery service.

In a bid to keep its business and the livelihoods of local fishermen afloat while also setting up an important service for its community, it is delivering seafood products and affordable locally sourced basics including milk, bread and eggs.

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Residents call the customer service team at Loch Fyne Oysters to place their order and its chilled delivery van serves different parts of the region each day.

Cameron Brown, managing director at Loch Fyne Oysters, said: “It’s a tough time for everyone at the moment and rural areas are being particularly hard hit.

“Many older and vulnerable members of the local community don’t have access to cars, and with public transport now even more limited we wanted to put our shoulder to the wheel to provide vital supplies.

“Our delivery service seemed a natural solution and it also helps keeps local suppliers in business. There will be no charge for delivery and products will be sold at a low cost to keep it affordable for local people during these hard times.”

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Loch Fyne Oysters had to close its Oyster Bar and Deli along with virtually the entire sector and has placed half of its 120 strong team on temporary furlough.

It has implemented safety measures for remaining employees.

Mr Brown said: “The service means that our remaining staff are kept busy, while also knowing that they are helping other locals through this difficult period.

“We have brought in a range of measures to protect our staff and consumers from the coronavirus including the installation of screens to help maintain social distancing, an intensive hand washing protocol and free staff meals for all.

“The health and wellbeing of our team is always at the heart of our business and with these new procedures I’m hopeful we can weather this storm together.”

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Elsewhere, similar efforts are being made with a seafood cruise business also launching a delivery service, moving its model during the current health crisis to transport supplies between islands.

An Isle of Skye five-star seafood cruise business has adapted its model to ferrying critical supplies to the neighbouring island of Rona, with Ewen Grant and Janice Cooney running deliveries on their 40-foot luxury catamaran, Seaflower.

Other Scottish seafood businesses that have also introduced new services in response to Covid-19 include Edinburgh’s Ondine restaurant transforming into a fish and chip takeaway, personal chef Mark Heirs delivering free hot meals to vulnerable and older people across central Scotland, Scrabster Seafoods Ltd delivering fresh seafood to Caithness and Sunderland and Harris and Lewis Smokehouse creating a new contactless takeaway service and free soup for all NHS staff.

Donna Fordyce, interim head of Seafood Scotland, said: “Agility is key in this forever evolving climate and it’s heartening to know that the seafood sector is not only working hard to protect its own businesses and staff livelihoods but also pulling together to give back to their local communities at a time when they need it most.

“With the forward-thinking, fast response of Scottish seafood businesses to the impact of Covid-19, coupled with the economic support packages for the industry being distributed by the Scottish Government, I’m confident that we will be able to protect the industry and ensure that it’s ready to flourish post-pandemic.”

She welcomed the £10 million package from rural secretary Fergus Ewing, who said parts of the sector have been “decimated” by the outbreak.

Businesses that meet certain criteria can apply for a mix of loans and grants to protect them during a downturn in business.

Grants will be capped at the equivalent of 120,000 euros - around £105,000 - for firms, with the rest made up in loans.

Mr Ewing said that "seafood processors are the lifeblood of many rural and coastal communities, supporting thousands of local jobs and producing some of the finest seafood in the world".

"The industry has been very clear that cash flow is the critical issue facing businesses and this new fund seeks to inject capital into businesses to help them meet their ongoing costs, keep the business solvent and keep people on the payroll," he said.

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