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Farmers have weathered plenty of bad news in recent months, but one bright spot emerging amid the coronavirus pandemic is the industry’s growing success with e-commerce.
Farming and e-commerce may have seemed an unlikely pair ahead of the pandemic, aside from a few outliers in the market, but increasingly, online marketplaces and delivery services are making high-quality produce more accessible than ever.
Farmison & Co, an online butcher that specialises in heritage and rare breed meat native to the British Isles, has experienced a rise in site traffic of over 1,100% during the pandemic.
As well as maxing out the number of delivery slots offered, introducing next-day delivery and recruiting three times their workforce, the business has taken on new specialist farmers in Yorkshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Cumbria to help keep the supply chain afloat and allow farmers to continue working through the pandemic. Farmison said over 30,000 new customers are buying meat on its website and consulting their online recipes.
Dr Paul Talling, founder of Harome-based Loose Birds, which supplies Farmison with slow grown, free-range poultry, has seen a huge increase in demand – and he’s confident that the changes in consumer behaviour are here to stay. “I think that even after this crisis, these changes in habits will stick and, thanks to Farmison, we have a high-performance sales platform whose emphasis on high-quality meat and exceptional animal husbandry reflects my own.”
Stuart Raw, who owns a herd of Dexters in the Yorkshire Dales, says that access to an online market has given him certainty at a time when livestock markets have been severely affected by Covid-19, with prices yo-yoing. “Farmison’s online marketplace has given us certainty – certainty that we’ll be able to sell our beasts; certainty that we’ll get a good and fair price; and certainty that we won’t be left high and dry during this time, because some butchers and farm shops have had to close.”
Elsewhere, supply chain company Harvest Bundle has launched a home delivery service to bring produce from British farms and fisheries directly to consumers. After launching in the autumn of 2019 with a handful of farmers on their list, the business has grown nearly tenfold throughout the pandemic.
With the hospitality industry taking a huge hit, Harvest Bundle has been able to provide farmers that typically supply restaurants with a new route to market through home delivery.
“Our mission is to build a better and more sustainable groceries industry for British farmers and fishermen, as well as the consumer. We want to build an end-to-end marketplace on transparency – enabling farmers and fishermen to market and benefit from selling their produce to customers,” says founder Ben White-Hamilton.
Going forwards, consumers’ increased focus on local shopping combined with the continued rise of online shopping suggest that innovative online marketplaces offer farmers a valuable route through the pandemic.