DEMAND for organic, locally grown veg boxes has skyrocketed during the coronavirus crisis, with farmers reporting surges in demand of up to 3000%.

Veg box companies across Scotland have had to stop taking new customers and even close waiting lists after the unprecedented rise in interest.

Heather Moore, the co-director of Bridgefoot Organic Co-op in Aberdeenshire, said: “We’ve seen a 3000% increase in the orders we were getting. We’ve been getting hundreds of emails a day. It’s been a bit of a challenge and we’ve had to bring in more people to help, it’s been an experience I have to say, but we are just starting to take on new orders again now.

“We have not had a negative impact [from coronavirus] at all to be honest.”

Maggie Sutherland, from Inverness’s Natural Veg Company, agreed, saying: “I think it’s the same for all the veg box businesses. They have been overwhelmed with orders.

“I used to wish I could get a few more people signed up, now we are getting 50 more people overnight wanting to buy local veg.”

Reuben Chesters, founder and director of Glasgow-based Locavore, said: “Following lockdown we had a really big surge in business. We had to close [to new orders] after a couple of weeks. We had about 1500 before and just two weeks later we had an extra 400. It would have been great if we could have taken on even more customers but we just don’t have the capacity.”

He added that the virus had been a double-edged sword, which had “hit capacity as well as increasing demand”.

There are also concerns in the community that the surge may not last long after lockdown.

Chesters said: “I would love to think that everyone’s going to change, but the reality is that a lot of people sign up that don’t really want them. They don’t want the seasonality of it.

“I think it has made people try veg boxes that may not have before but [the timing] has been unfortunate.”

Sutherland pointed out that we are currently in “the hungry gap”, the time between the winter and summer harvests when it is very hard to grow.

“I have to grow everything, and it gets really difficult now,” she added. “At the moment the veg boxes are getting a lot of spring greens and salad.

“It is a difficult time of year for variety but it gets much, much easier come July and hopefully people will stick with it.

“Hopefully they will have noticed the difference in the quality of the product and they will have learned to be creative because they don’t know what they will get each week.” Asked if she thought the surge in demand was here to stay, or just a flash in the pan, Wendy Seel, the owner of Aberdeenshire’s Vital Veg, said: “I think it’s a mix of

both those things. There’s more of an interest in where the food comes from but there’s also people who just need a delivery because they are vulnerable or they don’t want to stand in a queue.”

Aoife Behan, the director of food and farming charity Soil Association Scotland, said: “As we start to lift the lockdown, we must now focus on a green recovery – on retaining and building on the elements people have said they valued during lockdown: clean air, wildlife, a sense of local community, and food.

“We need to support Scottish farmers to develop the infrastructure to supply Scottish people more directly after the lockdown, from direct selling like veg boxes through to supermarkets, and to feed into our public sector.

“Fresh, healthy, sustainably-produced, local food is good for the environment, for the rural economy, and for people’s health.”