The ongoing Covid-19 crisis, which has witnessed the disruption of global food chains, highlights the importance of local production now more than ever.
Solutions discovered here on the Isle of Man during Covid-19 could have lasting benefits for our own food security, economy and the health of our people.
Restrictions imposed by measures designed to keep our Island safe during the current pandemic have caused turbulence across every industry in recent weeks.
Looking at local food and drink production, we are fortunate to have such robust agriculture and fishing industries at the heart of our supply chain, further enriched by a number of artisans who continue to celebrate the provenance of our Island through the processing of Manx-grown produce into a range of top quality products.
From the 33 dairy farms cooperating to supply milk from grass-fed cows to Isle of Man Creamery, to the 202 Manx farms committed to supplying Isle of Man Meats with the very best local beef, lamb and pork. From our fishing fleet and seafood processors, who have increased their direct sales through quayside selling or home delivery, to all those growing crops and making tasty produce, we should all be proud of the provenance of Manx food and drink.
Geoffrey Boot MHK, Minister for DEFA, said: 'We have seen a huge spike in the demand for Manx produce since Covid-19 began to impact our Island community. It is encouraging to see a new wave of people embracing what symbolises, for many, a new way of life and I truly hope that this support will continue far beyond this pandemic.
'I hope that consumer choices will be shaped by desire and recognition of value, rather than by necessity and I hope that this crisis might present an opportunity for us to change our relationship with food for the better.'
We are the only entire nation to enjoy UNESCO Biosphere status; the Island’s distinctive landscape and coastal towns have all been shaped by centuries of fishing and farming activities, while food production has an important role to play in our Island’s culture and communities.
Eating local food reduces food miles, which can save carbon, and can bring further benefits via reduced handling and a short period from picking to marketing. Via local markets it can also bring consumers into contact with producers, who are in turn able to better understand their clients’ interests. Buyers can also understand exactly what kind of production they are supporting and can make appropriate choices in terms of crop management and environmental protection, if this affects their choices.
Ensuring that we all have enough safe and affordable food to eat is a key priority for Government; indeed, access to a safe, nutritious and affordable diet is a basic to having a decent quality of life. Moreover, during a health crisis it is important to consider the nutritional value of your food, which can degrade from the time of picking.
Local food also supports the local economy. With many businesses having had to close in recent weeks, this is also of the utmost importance. Money that is spent with local farmers and growers stays close to home and is reinvested with businesses and services in your own community. According to the multiplier effect, every £1 spent on Manx food and drink is worth £1.83 to the Manx economy.
With the hospitality and tourism industry at a standstill and the majority of the Manx public encouraged to stay at home, many producers have chosen to embrace opportunity via the complete overhaul of their existing business models.
Minister Boot added: 'The efforts and creativity of producers are highly commendable as they continue to showcase significant strength and resilience, diversifying their product ranges, increasing production and adapting to offer home deliveries to residents Island-wide.
'To secure a vibrant future for our local food sector, my Department has been supporting such businesses and will continue to do so via the Agriculture and Fisheries Grant Scheme. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.'
To help you find local produce, remember you can look out for the Isle of Man provenance label which indicates produce that is grown, reared, caught and/or processed in the Isle of Man and/or contains mostly Manx ingredients.
You can also visit Isle of Man Food and Drink's deliveries page to discover businesses offering Manx produce for home delivery. This site also hosts a downloadable PDF with contact numbers, allowing those without access to the internet to place orders.
The Minister said: 'Please keep buying Manx, both during Covid-19 and beyond, support the wider sustainability of our Island, its food and farming industry and thus its economy and join me in thanking our hard-working farmers, fishermen, producers and retailers who are working day and night to make this all possible.'