A Norfolk potato grower has urged shoppers to support their local retailers, restaurants and caterers to revive the food trade and help sell the surplus generated by the second lockdown.
Tim Briscoe, manager of the Buxton Potato Company, became one of the countless community heroes of the first lockdown by delivering sacks of potatoes to his most vulnerable or isolated neighbours in his spare time.
He also set up a point-of-sale box shop named the “Isolation Station” at the entrance to Dudwick Farm, on Cawston Road in Buxton, near Aylsham, so customers could safely collect and pay for potatoes.
But although he was able to find some new outlets, many of his excess potatoes had to be sold off cheap as animal feed earlier this year and now the second lockdown has also hit demand from the restaurants and catering businesses he supplies. As a result, he estimates there is a surplus of 60-70 tonnes of potatoes in his stores after the last four weeks.
He is confident those extra potatoes can be sold if demand returns to normal levels in the next six to nine months – hopefully aided by the optimism of an imminent coronavirus vaccine. But in the meantime, he is urging shoppers to seek out local produce and help Norfolk food businesses survive the economic shock of two lockdowns.
“I just really hope people support local businesses to keep them going,” said Mr Briscoe. “It is all a big circle. It all creates local jobs, it is not just farmers, it is everybody. And it is more important than ever before.
“It is a very nervous time. People want to go out, but they are worried about it. There is no real demand so the supply is sitting here ready to go. It will be the same for any potato business.
“With lockdown, it is like someone turning the key off. We would generally sell about 20-30 tonnes per week locally. In the last four weeks that more or less stopped. “We have been supporting our local supermarkets but the catering side fell off a cliff.
“We can store everything here. We put everything to sleep and hold it here at 2.5C to 3C, so as long as the trade returns by the middle of next year we will be fine. But we need people to support their local businesses.”