Impacts on EU fruit and vegetable markets
In many countries, the main issue now is organising the planting and harvesting of seasonal products. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, producers do not have enough workers because they cannot circulate, they are ill, or seasonal workers from other European countries are not allowed to travel. Several countries are now taking measures to permit foreign workers to enter, including Germany, Spain and Italy (Fructidor, 8 April).
According to one European importer, there is a lack of ginger on the European market (Fresh Plaza, 8/9 April), and current suppliers cannot meet the demand: produce from China cannot be shipped and local demand is high, Peru is out of season, Thailand is facing a drought, and Brazil will be ready to ship in July. The situation is the same for sweet potatoes, there is not enough produce offered.
Sales at wholesales level seem to be oriented on local products such as asparagus and strawberries. Despite higher prices, cauliflowers are finding outlets. The price of some imported produce from overseas, such as melons and mangoes, has increased due to logistical issues, notably air freight (Source: Fresh Plaza, 8/9 April).
A study by the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), carried out from 23 to 29 March and published on 9 April, shows that overall consumption by French households fell by 35%. This drop is mainly impacted by the significant reduction in the consumption of fuel, manufactured goods and services. But the consumption of agricultural products is up by 10%.
Thanks to a consultation set up between the agricultural unions of the French fresh fruit and vegetable sectors and French supermarkets to promote national production, French seasonal fruit and vegetables, even at a higher cost, are supported by consumption. At present the production areas in the south of France are in the middle of harvesting, and 200,000 people in partial unemployment or unemployed have responded to the call of the producers’ unions to work in harvesting and sowing. According to the Rungis wholesalers’ union, the government’s announcement of the closure of street markets has reduced the activities of some wholesalers by 40 to 50%. There was also a shift in demand to the Provinces as soon as the confinement period was announced in mid-March, with some inhabitants of the Paris region moving to the Provinces. However, wholesalers working with the catering trade have seen their activity shrink by 80%.
Since last week, 1,200 out of 10,000 street markets in France have been allowed to reopen, and some retailers are offering home delivery. Rungis Market operated four days out of five this week. The day of closure to sales did not prevent operators from registering orders or receiving/delivering goods from the docks. For some wholesalers whose customers are early retailers, demand remains tense for products such as kiwi fruit, eggplant, cucumber, cauliflower and broccoli. Some fear a disruption in the supply of products. (Source: Rungis Market Newsletter, 9 April)
The Institute of Services for the Agricultural Food Market (Istituto di Servizi per il Mercato Agricolo Alimentare, ISMEA) has published the results of a study carried out between 17 February and 15 March which mentions a sharp increase in food purchases, particularly in supermarkets, to the detriment of street markets. There has been a particular increase in consumption of fruits and vegetables such as oranges and apples. Purchases of 4th and 5th range vegetables were significant in the initial phase of the crisis, and have declined because the confinement has pushed consumers towards fresh products. Products that keep better were favoured, such as potatoes, kiwis, pulses, cabbages, apples and frozen vegetables. (Source: FLD hebdo)
In the first few weeks of the crisis, significant panic buying cleared the supply chain of certain items in supermarkets. At that time, some experts were predicting that Britain’s supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables, which predominantly come from Spain and Italy, could be severely disrupted by the coronavirus crisis. Another factor of a possible disruption is the “just-in-time” supply chain strategy adopted by the supermarkets. However, the situation has now become more normal as supermarket chains adapt by organising home deliveries and make stores safer for customers; and by sharing information on stock levels, cooperating to keep shops open, or sharing distribution depots and delivery vans. (Source: Food Ingredients 1st, 9 April)