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Dairy farmers and cheesemakers have been hit particularly hard during the coronavirus pandemic, and it seems that despite the onslaught of support for British producers, many cheesemakers are still facing the prospect of throwing away perfectly good cheese.
With the hospitality sector still closed and the majority of events cancelled, artisanal cheesemakers across the country will soon have to discard short shelf-life cheese unless a new market is found.
Companies such as the Cornish Cheese Co have lost a huge chunk of their business since lockdown began in March. For some producers, it’s the result of the hospitality sector ceasing operation overnight, whilst for others, the closure of deli counters in major supermarkets has also had a detrimental impact.
Whilst British cheesemaker Wyke Farms said that cheddar retail sales in the UK and Europe have increased 15% during lockdown, other varieties haven’t been quite as lucky, with stilton sales dropping by 30%.
Producers of soft cheese have been particularly affected given the short shelf life of the product. Some cheeses have also been frozen to be used later in foodservice products like pasties and pies, but even these are now reaching the end of their best-before date.
Throughout the pandemic, retailers large and small have been doing their bit to support British cheesemakers by helping them find new routes to market. Waitrose introduced a ‘best of British’ cheese selection box in support of its smallest British artisan cheese suppliers, whilst independent retailers have been stocking products from local producers.
Such support, alongside national campaigns urging Brits to buy more locally produced cheese during lockdown, have been vital in keeping business going throughout the pandemic so far. What’s more, several surveys have shown consumers’ desire to purchase British produce over imported ones. But this slow increase in business will need to gain more traction as cheesemakers begin production again. Having witnessed a rise in Brits cooking from scratch, many industry bodies and producers are now focusing on encouraging people to cook with local cheeses to help shift produce and continue the growing trend for buying British.
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