Covid-19 Coronavirus

Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture's statement to Tynwald on COVID-19 – 24 March 2020

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Thank you Mr President

Amidst concern by our community evidenced by what I can only describe as panic buying of food and various products, including toilet rolls, I thought to reassure honourable members and our community that there is a good supply of food, both imported and local, as well as other products though it has taken in store volume controls to stabilise shelf stocks, due to massive over buying.

To be fair to everyone, including our essential workers, I can only implore people to buy what they need not hoard and over buy.

Local producers have stepped up massively, with significant extra local sales, emphasising their role in food security. We have processors running double shifts, producers switching products to supply what we have been short of, drivers and shelf stackers working long hours to get the produce onto the shelves for us all. Thanks to all parts of the supply chain and the retailers for their great efforts.

We are looking at how we make sure there is income in the economy and will therefore imminently pay the Agricultural support one month early, to get cash into the rural economy faster.

We are working closely with fishermen and fish processors, who have been hit hard by the collapse of the export market and have received no payment for recent export orders. This comes after a difficult season when fishing has been curtailed due to weather and low stocks. They are a key strategic industry which we must and will support and maintain.

We are now increasingly looking to introduce extra flexibility throughout our regulation, where ever possible, to best support the changing social and economic needs, so we can support the recovery and stimulate development. Planning relaxations to allow Pubs becoming takeaways, taxis delivering food for vulnerable residents, these are all great examples of people repurposing their businesses to keep the Island going.

We have been working closely with the steam packet to ensure we balance biosecurity and livestock welfare, whilst enabling the farming industry’s essential import and export of livestock to continue to function and most importantly, to ensure public health is protected.

I am grateful for the hard work of our team in striving to support the economy and community through the current challenges. Like the rest of the public service, they have worked exceptional hours to establish what needs doing and then get it done at a pace which is extraordinary and unprecedented.

This is just the start of what will be a long journey, however, I am confident that if we all work together and each play our part to minimise the spread and maximise the effort to support the wider community and economy, we will come through this as a stronger and more supportive community.

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