What a heart-warming idea it was to celebrate the dedication of NHS staff at 8pm last Thursday, across Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as they continue the fight to control Coronavirus.
I was delighted to join with so many people Northern Irelandin thanking NHS staff for their inspirational work…and not just in the life and death battle against Covid-19. And the same goes for all the carers out there in residential and nursing care.
While they do a tremendous job for us throughout the year,they absolutely deserve our gratitude at this time and musthave all the support they need to do their jobs and to provide the protection they require.
We really see the very best of Northern Ireland at challenging times. There’s now a widespread recognition that we are all in this together and that we will only defeat the virus by working as a united and determined community.
I’d also wish to pay the warmest tribute to our farmers, food processors and retailers, (particularly delis and independent grocers) who have stepped up their efforts to provide the quality and nutritious food we all need to fight the virus effectively and to speed up recovery. They are truly the unsung heroes of the pandemic here. Our farmers have quietly continued to produce quality, wholesome and nutritious meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, vegetables and potatoes, everything a healthy body requires.
Our Taste of Ulster member restaurants and cafes have also adapted to the crisis and continue to offer great food on a collection basis. Many have volunteered to help community organisations by cooking for those in need.
Environment secretary George Eustice has recognised the industry’s tremendous response to Covid-19 in an open letter paying a richly deserved tribute to the “absolutely vital service” being provided.
So many inspirational stories of food enterprises meeting the challenges of the crisis have reached my office from various sources. And I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the commitment and innovation they are demonstrating. For instance, a host of smaller companies have responded to the lockdown and the campaign to ensure more individuals and families can stay at home to reduce the spread of the virus by offering free delivery services that can be paid for by card. See www.nigoodfood.com for more details.
One innovative farm business has just revived a farm to doorstep fresh milk delivery service in the Portadown/Tandragee/Armagh City area. And families in the Dromore/Newtownards/Comber area can now enjoy freshly griddle baked breads delivered to their doors. It’s also easier than even to order fresh fish and seafood landed by trawlers in Co Down harbours for delivered straight to your door by companies in Kilkeel and Belfast.
Delis here have also been making it easier to enjoy nutritious fruit and vegetables by putting together bespoke boxes delivered to doorsteps.
Our bigger dairy, meat and poultry processing members are all working at full throttle to ensure fresh produce for retailers across Northern Ireland and to Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.
I really cannot comprehend the panic for pasta when we have a ready supply of tasty potatoes from a host of local farmers and provided by processors in a wide range of easy cooked formats including for use in microwaves.
Distilleries here have also reacted to the crisis by switching into the production of hand sanitizers especially for health and care staff.
The response of our food and drink industry demonstrate is tremendous adaptability and its ability to react quickly to the needs of this beleaguered community. We’ll also need the industry’s skills and outstanding products in rebuilding our shattered economy when the virus has been defeated…and it will be and hopefully soon. I hope when life returns to normal that there is increased recognition of the part that everyone in the food and drink industry has played at this challenging time. Stay safe.