Devon’s farmers are calling on shoppers to continue to ‘buy local’ as the lockdown eases and indoor hospitality reopens.

Farm shops and independent food stores played a vital role during the Covid-19 pandemic, easing pressure on larger retailers when the usual supply chains were disrupted.

They proved to be adaptable, catering to customer requests and developing delivery and collection systems, and helped shoppers reconnect to local food.

Devon NFU chairman Richard Tucker warned that although farmers were very grateful for the support they had been given over the last 18 months, there were uncertain times ahead.

“One thing the pandemic has done, particularly when there were shortages on supermarket shelves, is to remind people about the importance of short, local food supply chains which aren’t so easily upset.

“But if we’re going to continue to enjoy such a range of great local food then we need shoppers to continue to support their local farmer, buying local food and looking out for the Red Tractor logo in the supermarket.”

Research carried out during the lockdown by the University of Exeter and the Rural Group of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership found that shortening food supply chains and improving local public procurement could provide a significant economic boost to the recovering economy.

Mr Tucker, a dairy farmer from Tiverton, pointed out the need for politicians to continue to support agriculture as the industry faces up to the challenges and opportunities brought about by Covid, Brexit and the new trade deals which are currently being negotiated.

“The economic and trading environment for farmers could look very different in just a few years’ time, and we need our MPs and government to continue to back us, particularly as the government seems determined to pursue a policy of market liberalisation that could potentially deliver huge imports of food produced in ways that would not be allowed in this country.

“So we are calling on politicians to help ensure farming is ‘match ready’ for what lies ahead.

“We will also be taking the opportunity to point out how disappointed we are with the government’s change of tack on bovine TB and plans to move away from wildlife control, which has been proven to work, towards vaccination which so far hasn’t been shown to work at all.”