'No food shortages here' - farm shops ready to fill void

Robert and Becca Hirst in their expanded farm shop and cafe at Ormesby St Margaret

Robert and Becca Hirst in their expanded farm shop and cafe at Ormesby St Margaret - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

While food shortages are worrying some supermarket shoppers, Norfolk's fully-stocked farm shops said they stand ready to fill any gaps.

The jobs crisis among hauliers and food processing factories has emptied some shop shelves and restaurant menus.

But it is the opposite problem of surpluses which many of the region's farms are grappling with.

A post-Brexit exodus of migrant workers, exacerbated by Covid-19 factors, has been blamed for the shortage of meat processing staff which has created a costly backlog of thousands of pigs on the region’s farms.

Meanwhile fruit and veg growers are struggling to find enough people to pick and pack their crops.

But while national supply chains struggle, farmers have urged shoppers to seek out the local, low-food-miles offerings from farm shops and online delivery schemes - many of which were launched or expanded in response to similar concerns during last year's lockdown.

Rebecca Mayhew is a co-owner of Old Hall Farm at Woodton, near Bungay, which has a Jersey dairy herd, a cafe and farm shop.

"We have not had one supply issue with anything at all," she said. "I think the time for people to start supporting their local farm shops is now.


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"We don't have any issues with supply, but the more we know there is demand then the easier it will be to fulfil it.

"There is nothing worse than 50 customers all turning up wanting something you were not expecting.

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"If people start talking to us now we can start looking after each other for the next months and years, so don't leave it too late to find somewhere to go."

Rebecca Mayhew runs a dairy herd, farm shop and cafe at Old Hall Farm in Woodton, near Bungay

Rebecca Mayhew runs a dairy herd, farm shop and cafe at Old Hall Farm in Woodton, near Bungay - Credit: Nick Butcher

Hirst's Farm Shop at Ormesby, near Great Yarmouth, opened an enlarged shop and cafe building earlier this year.

Robert Hirst, who runs the shop with his wife Becca, said: "None of our suppliers have had a shortage. When it comes to essentials, our bread and butter, meat, vegetables and fish, it is such a small supply chain and we don't have a shortage in any of these areas. The shelves are full."

Mr Hirst said while the supply chain jobs crisis created opportunities for the farm shop, there were concerns within the family's livestock enterprise, which is due to finish its next five-month batch of 1,999 pigs in the next two weeks.

"We are still a couple of weeks away from the next batch being ready, and we will be loading out over five or six weeks," he said. "So by the time that eight weeks is over we need the government to have made some changes - if not it is going to be devastating for the industry."

Ministers have been urged to introduce a 12-month "Covid-19 Recovery Visa" to fill an estimated 500,000 vacancies across food and drink businesses.

But the labour problem is not the only factor causing food shortages. Shoppers were warned this week that they can expect to pay up to 50pc more for their pasta in coming months amid shortages of its key ingredient of durum wheat, following a disastrous growing season in Canada.

* We are running a series of special reports mover the next few days on the shortage crisis and the impact on the region and its people. 

The new Hirst's Farm Shop and Cafe at Ormesby St Margaret

The new Hirst's Farm Shop and Cafe at Ormesby St Margaret - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021


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