'PRECARIOUS' is now the natural order of the food chain. Now that we have time to think about it, it has been so for some time, but it has taken the seismic effect of Covid-19 to bring it into sharp focus that things had to change.

Take doorstep deliveries. Two generations ago the ubiquitous milkman and 'grocery vans' selling everything from a pun of mince to Domestos, were commonplace in many parishes across Scotland. Then, the power of supermarket chains squeezed the very life out of local retailers and these home and mobile delivery methods ceased to exist.

Covid-19 has given a new impetus to the business of getting quite a measure of consumers' weekly shop delivered to their doorstep and a new generation of entrepreneurs has risen to the challenge of delivering (pardon the pun) this change. It doesn't need the home-delivery strength of a giant supermarket either, as amongst the new initiatives have been those who moved into 'farm shop' retail-style mode and have now been 'forced' into selling direct – maybe it was something that should have been done all along?

The Roan family's dairy supply business, as featured recently in this newspaper, was ahead of its time and ready to exploit this new service market. I know that some of the bigger dairy outfits have also now had a 'light bulb' moment and have begun looking again at exploiting the doorstep delivery market.

It's not too flippant to suggest that maybe it had always been there to take advantage of, but that the direct sales route was deemed too difficult and was held back by a fear of having to invest too much in trying to take on the supermarkets. Well, the lockdown has dispelled that and as Patsy Hunter reports on pages 16 and 17 of The Scottish Farmer this week, the traditional butcher has risen to the challenge.

But, it has not been achieved without invention and hard work. Time will tell, though, whether this is a long-term prospect that will have a longevity and that these sales initiatives will 'stick'. There is a feeling that nothing will ever be the same after Covid-19, but history tells us that is not the way public perception works and so the danger is that once lockdown and movement restrictions are lifted, then supermarket will once again reign supreme in the minds of consumers.

While that will, perhaps, be the case for the majority, there will be a significant percentage who will have appreciated the efforts that have been made by the local traders who have serviced them and looked after them well, during the pandemic. It is, as they say, still a 'live' market to chase and we can only hope that direct selling by small businesses can, in some way, challenge the domination of the giant retailers and their stranglehold on the likes of the trade in beef, dairy and egg products (see also Jim Walker's Farm View on this page).