Keep farm shops open, government urged

By FWi staff

THE Farm Retail Association wants the government to include farm shops and restaurants on a proposed list of countryside businesses and attractions that remain open to the public.

FRA members who run farm shops and restaurants are losing 6 million a week due to the foot-and-mouth crisis, says spokesman Gareth Jones.

“We face a countryside desert if this continues. The economic impact on rural businesses and employment is potentially huge.”

Customers are driving past farms, assuming they are closed due to the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Many businesses are suffering a drop in turnover of 50-75%, whether or not they have livestock on the farm, says Mr Jones.

“The government has announced this week that it is taking the knock-on effect of foot-and-mouth on tourism very seriously and that it needs to advertise that many rural businesses and attractions are open.

We shall push for farm retailers to be included on that list.”

He stresses that the FRA is not encouraging people to visit the countryside unnecessarily because most retail premises are located on busy or main roads.

Stephen Hull, who owns the Wrekin farm shop, Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex, has seen weekly trade drop by 30-35% since the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

“Sunday trade has been particularly hard hit and is down 60%.

“The shop is still open, but I think it is just that the public are scared of going on to farms. Turnover has fallen 1000-1500 a week.”

Mr Hull believes that the only way to get through the crisis is to continue to make people aware that nothing has changed and his is a safe area.

“We have sent several flyers around emphasising that we only sell 100% British produce. I hope this stands us in good stead when the crisis is over,” he adds.

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