Scotland’s seafood sector is diversifying like never before to help counter the devastating impact the COVID-19 global pandemic is having on the industry.
As demand for Scottish delicacies such as langoustine, prawns and crab plummets due to the decimation of the export and hospitality markets, seafood businesses are coming up with alternative, creative ways to get its valuable produce from sea to plate.
Argyll-based Loch Fyne Oysters (LFO), specialises in supplying oysters, salmon and mussels to both trade and consumers in the UK and abroad. With the export market (which usually accounts for 50% of revenue) at a complete standstill and domestic demand dropping due to nation-wide restaurant closures, LFO decided to create its own delivery service.
In a bid to keep its business and the livelihoods of local fishermen afloat while also creating a vital service for its community, Loch Fyne Oysters is set to launch its new ‘from loch to door’ service on Monday 30th March, which will feature seafood products as well as locally sourced basics including milk, bread and eggs.
Argyll & Bute residents will be able to call the customer service team at Loch Fyne Oysters to place their order and its dedicated chilled delivery van will serve different parts of the region each day.
Cameron Brown, Managing Director at Loch Fyne Oysters, commented: “It’s a tough time for everyone at the moment and rural areas are being particularly hard hit. Many older and vulnerable members of the local community don’t have access to cars, and with public transport now even more limited we wanted to put our shoulder to the wheel to provide vital supplies. Our delivery service seemed a natural solution and it also helps keeps local suppliers in business. There will be no charge for delivery and products will be sold at a low cost to keep it affordable for local people during these hard times.”
Loch Fyne Oysters was forced to close its Oyster Bar & Deli last week and subsequently had to put nearly 50% of its 120 strong team on temporary furlough. It has also implemented a range of safety and wellbeing measures for the remainder of its employees in response to COVID-19.
Brown added: “This new delivery service means that our remaining staff are kept busy, while also knowing that they are helping other locals through this difficult period. We have brought in a range of measures to protect our staff and consumers from the coronavirus including the installation of screens to help maintain social distancing, an intensive hand washing protocol and free staff meals for all. The health and wellbeing of our team is always at the heart of our business and with these new procedures I’m hopeful we can weather this storm together.”
Other Scottish seafood businesses that have also introduced new services in response to COVID-19 include; Edinburgh’s Ondine restaurant transforming into a fish and chip takeaway, personal chef Mark Heirs delivering free hot meals to the vulnerable and elderly across central Scotland, Scrabster Seafoods Ltd delivering fresh seafood to Caithness and Sunderland and Harris and Lewis Smokehouse creating a new contactless takeaway service and free soup for all NHS staff.
Donna Fordyce, Interim Head of Seafood Scotland, commented: “It’s fantastic to see how Scottish seafood businesses have adapted to the new world we’re living in. Agility is key in this forever evolving climate and it’s heartening to know that the seafood sector is not only working hard to protect its own businesses and staff livelihoods but also pulling together to give back to their local communities at a time when they need it most. With the forward-thinking, fast response of Scottish seafood businesses to the impact of COVID-19, coupled with the economic support packages for the industry being distributed by the Scottish Government, I’m confident that we will be able to protect the industry and ensure that it’s ready to flourish post-pandemic.”
Earlier this week Seafood Scotland welcomed a package announced by The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism, Fergus Ewing, to provide much-needed support to Scotland’s fishing sector and is continuing to work in close collaboration with the Scottish Government to further bolster financial support for the wider industry in the coming weeks.