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The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural affairs have written an open letter to thank Northern Ireland’s food champions for their continued hard work during the Coronavirus outbreak.

“As a nation, we are facing the biggest health crisis we’ve seen for generations.

“The worry, stress and changes we’ve all had to endure over recent weeks have been difficult and we should be in no doubt that there will be more challenges ahead. In the midst of these challenging times, I want to say a heartfelt thank you and pay tribute to everyone working so hard to keep food on our tables.

“In the past, we may not have realised the work and effort behind our full cupboards and stocked-up shelves, but now we fully grasp the complex, high-quality and dedicated supply chain that lies behind our favourite foods. While some people are unable to go to work for a range of reasons, many of you working on farms, on production lines, transporting produce, working in our greengrocers, butchers and supermarkets, are working harder than ever to feed the nation. You’ve adjusted the way you work, responded to major changes in demand and transformed your systems to ensure food production and supply keeps moving.

“You are feeding our vital hospital staff and their patients, our elderly relatives in care and residential homes, our children and some of the most vulnerable people in society who are reliant on food banks, community and voluntary food deliverers.

“While we all rightly recognise the health service heroes, who are looking after us in our time of need, we must also recognise and applaud you. Some may say you are the unsung heroes – but I can see clearly, and fully understand, the contribution you are making to the fight against COVID-19.

“In my Department, we continue to listen and support you as much as we can. We are in regular contact with the agri-food industry stakeholders and have really helpful conversations about pressure points and solutions to emerging issues.

“We have also taken a range of actions to free up the food industry to be more flexible and keep up with demands.

“We continually have to come up with new solutions and answers to questions we’ve never had to consider previously. We face a fast-paced, unfamiliar and invisible enemy – but we face it together. I am immensely proud of the grit and determination of all those involved in our food supply chain to keep food moving and keep our country fed. We all owe you an immense debt of gratitude.”

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