After what has been one of the vital exceptional and difficult years in international historical past, it’s each well timed and completely acceptable to applaud and have fun the efforts of Northern Eire’s agri-food sector all through the pandemic.
or many, the influence of Covid-19 has been unimaginable and whereas we now have mild on the finish of a really lengthy tunnel, we stay in unsure occasions.
However what’s undisputable and has been for the reason that first lockdown was introduced final March, is the response from the farming, meals processing, logistics and retail sectors. The true grit method to “enterprise as normal”, along with an unfaltering deal with “feeding the nation” has been merely heroic.
Asda has at all times been clear on its help for the native agri-food sector — it’s central to our enterprise, and we all know regionally sourced merchandise are equally vital to our prospects. However by no means has this message been extra related and it’s one which resonates loudly by way of our help of the 2021 Agri-Meals Firm of the 12 months class.
A significant factor which has impacted on all the sector has been its responsiveness to alter. Asda felt it on the frontline — with the purchasing habits of 19 million weekly prospects ebbing and flowing.
From the preliminary panic shopping for of early spring, to a lull as we responded to the ‘keep at dwelling’ message, adopted by big surges in demand for on-line purchasing, there is no such thing as a doubt the tempo of change couldn’t have been predicted. However we have now responded, tailored, and can proceed to take action.
Nevertheless, one factor is evident, Asda, together with the remainder of the retail sector would have struggled to attain any of this with out the help of our native suppliers. We applaud all these in our provide chain for his or her agility, effort and resilience which ensured our cabinets had been stocked and our prospects had been glad all through.
Asda too has been responsive all through the pandemic and we’re happy with what we have now achieved. Highlights embrace donating over £1m of products to virtually 2,000 charities; funding a phone helpline for the weak and aged through the Royal Voluntary Service; donating 7,000 Dell laptops to help with home-schooling; easing meals poverty although a donation of £5m to the Trussell Belief and Fareshare; issuing 450,000 precedence passes to extraordinarily weak prospects; rising on-line capability to 850,000 slots per week and giving our wonderful colleagues a 100% bonus.
We by no means imagined that each one this and rather more can be required in 2020, nevertheless it was.
Within the coming months hopefully the scientists and public well being consultants will lead us out of the disaster, and though there are uncertainties in each course, it’s a time for some optimism.
We are going to begin to see the meals service sector come again into play which ought to be excellent news for agri-food firms and hopefully a return to larger ranges of client confidence.
It’s honest to say we have now all performed our half and these awards supply an amazing alternative to showcase and reward these agri-food firms who’ve gone the additional mile to maintain the nation fed and watered. After a yr like no different, they deserve each probability to have fun.
Joe McDonald is senior supervisor, company affairs, Asda Northern Eire
To enter the Belfast Telegraph Enterprise Awards, go to www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/businessawards/enter