THE phrase 'We're all in this together' has been an integral part of the indoctrination of the nation to cope during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. But, like the political fragmentation that is occurring in Westminster, the cracks that have been exposed in the food chain have shown that, actually, 'we are not all in this together.'

Our retail shopping survey reported on page 6 has shown that British retailers would rather shave a few pence off their supplies by buying in foodstuffs from overseas, than stand four square beside the home industry.

That's especially so in beef and as our survey proved, loyalty by Scottish red meat producers shown to processors and the supermarkets they supply, is a one way street as far as some of the biggest retailers are concerned.

While they are keen to demand ever-increasing bureaucracy and barometers in the production standards of their dedicated producers in the UK, once a few pence can be saved, they're off steaming across the Irish Sea/North Sea/Atlantic Ocean, to buy red meat from Tom, Dick and Harry. Come on down ... if the price is right!

When German retail businesses, Aldi and Lidl, arrived on British shores, they were roundly condemned in a marketing campaign by the established brands that they would 'peddle inferior German products'.

Nothing has been further from the truth as far as fresh meat is concerned. These two retailers and, it has to be said Morrisons and Marks and Spencers, have been right behind Scottish/British supplies.

It's an accepted thing that while business should haggle hard with one eye on securing the best deals, it must have another – and a weather eye at that – on not strangling the long-term viability of the businesses that supply it. It is good that some companies do have that within their conscience, but sadly others do not, driven mainly by short-term shareholder-satisfying greed.

But, as one of our best modern-day poets said, the times they are a-changing. Marion McCormick (once head of fresh meat supplies at Aldi) gives us a fascinating insight into how consumer attitudes have changed since 'lockdown.' They are more likely to source local, more likely to make their own food from scratch and even bake their own bread.

The implications are enormous for all parts of the food supply chain and farmers are the essential primary source for much of that. There is much, therefore, to play for in assisting this change to more local, sustainable food production.

As ever, agriculture must be alert to change and take advantage of the opportunities that this might bring, which is easier said than done by such a disparate industry. But, inevitably, change will come and the collective ability of farming to rise to a challenge is legendary – epitomised by the way it has surmounted the very many challenges of Covid-19 restrictions and its effect on the transient labour market.

Which brings me neatly to a positive ending. Last weekend's purchase of strawberries from Tesco, stamped as being from an Angus-based producer – and in all probability picked by a foreign worker – showed just how outstanding our produce can be. That followed some truly excellent Galloway burgers from Aldi. If only Tesco adopted such tactics with its red meat offering ...