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INC Leadership Perspective on COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented in our lifetimes. As the world grapples with the severe implications of this novel virus for people’s health, it is undisputable that the world economy and businesses are facing struggles as well.

The exact beginning of the pandemic is difficult to pinpoint, but with the virus first spreading in China during January, it was not long before the rest of the world would become affected. By mid-March, a large number of countries throughout the world would be facing rapidly rising infections and hard decisions. Apart from the growingly difficult health decisions to be made by governments, the economy and businesses began to retract. In response to growing infections, a large majority of countries began to impose draconian lockdowns and restrict movement, trade, and business operations. With severe restrictions in place and millions of people limited from leaving their houses, all in efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the global economy slumped.

Like most businesses and industries worldwide, the nut and dried fruit industry has had to face numerous setbacks and challenges to overcome this pandemic. The International Nut and Dried Fruit Council (INC), as the leading global voice of the industry and with membership representing over 85% of the world’s commercial “farm gate” value of trade in nuts and dried fruits, feels that it is imperative to give the industry an update on how the pandemic has impacted nuts and dried fruits and the future prospects. The leadership of the INC has the unique privilege of being well in-tune and being able to provide an in-depth analysis of the impacts and future outlook. The following sections are excerpts of interviews conducted by the INC with various members of its leadership team.

Lockdown Effects in Asia

Asia was the first region of the world to experience the COVID-19 pandemic and now after months of strict lockdowns, some countries are beginning to relax those restrictions. To represent Asia in the interviews, the INC reached out to Pratap Nair, from Vijayalaxmi Cashew Company in India, and member of the INC Executive Committee, Behrooz Agah, from the Agah Group in Iran and INC Ambassador to Iran, and Chen Qi (Christina), from QiaQia Food Co. LTD. and a member of the INC Board of Trustees.

One common theme from the interviews was the effect of the strict lockdowns in their respective countries. As China was the first country to experience lockdowns, Ms. Qi noted “it was very tough and there was even panic during the first two months.” Regarding India, Mr. Nair mentioned, “in the cashew industry in India, there have been severe consequences due to COVID-19. The factories were all shut during the three months lock down and thereby suppliers and processors were unable to fulfill contracts on time. Workers were without income, and restrictions on weddings festivals and social gatherings (which accounts for a large portion of nuts and dried fruit sales) affected demand considerably.” In Iran, Mr. Agah said, “the lock-downs, in general, have resulted in significant challenges on two segments of the supply chain. It has resulted in a reduction in production/processing capacities but has also disrupted the flow through distribution/sales channels in different markets.”

However, there is still reason to be optimistic, as Mr. Agah said “promotion and increased awareness as to the benefits of consumption of different products in this sector on general health and well-being” is likely to be a focus once COVID-19 resides. Mr. Nair also stated, “I am certain our strong and resilient industry will have the strength to overcome this challenge”. Ms. Qi echoed the same thoughts saying, “because of consumers growing demand for staying healthy, this industry will accelerate in China.”

Perspective in Europe

As the epicenter of the pandemic began to shift from China to Europe in April, the nut and dried fruit industry proved to be resilient. When asked the question, how difficult has COVID-19 been to manage, Board of Trustee member, Jan Vincent Rieckmann, from August Töpfer & Co. (GmbH & Co.) KG in Germany, responded that “after initial unclarity and fear of the unknown, we can say it was retrospectively less difficult to manage than it appeared initially. Most European countries were able to get the COVID pandemic under control within a reasonable amount of time and things started to improve again.”

Roby Danon, from Voicevale Limited in the UK and also a member of the Board of Trustees, answered the same question with, “considering the nightmarish scenario that some of us were envisaging in the beginning, it has been remarkably easy to navigate the difficulties that we have faced. Human nature has a wonderful way of adopting when it absolutely needs to and the pandemic has proved that once again.”

Concerning the future position of the nut and dried fruit industry, both Mr. Rieckmann and Mr. Danon expressed a positive outlook. Mr. Rieckmann stated, “we are quite confident the dried fruit and nut industry will return to a normal state” and Mr. Danon responded, “I do not think any damage will be long lasting.”

Situation in the Americas

After the outbreak began to come under more control across Europe, the center moved to the Americas. For insights into COVID-19 and the nut and dried fruit industry in the Americas, Bill Carriere, from Carriere Family Farms in the US and member of the INC Executive Committee, Jeffrey Sanfilippo, from John B. Sanfilippo & Son Inc. in the US and INC Ambassador to the US, and Edmundo Valderrama, President of Chilenut in Chile were interviewed.

One question in the interview asked “How would you rate the response to the pandemic from the nut and dried fruit industry?” Bill Carriere noted, “I think the industry has stepped up to the challenge quite well” and Jeffrey Sanfilippo agreed saying, “I believe the nut and dried fruit industry responded quickly to the pandemic and companies focused on executing best practices to maintain consistent quality food products.” From Chile, Edmundo Valderrama stated, “I am quite proud of the response of our industry.”

It is important to note that there were still challenges to be faced as Mr. Carriere mentioned, “the shift from food service demand to retail/grocery demand has caused some issues. When there were product shifts, the packaging and formulations are not the same for the two uses, so adjustments had to be made”.  Nevertheless, Mr. Sanfilippo and Mr. Valderrama pointed out there are still opportunities for the industry as a result from COVID-19.

Recovery in Oceania

Being as isolated as Australia and New Zealand are has most certainly helped with mitigating the effects of the pandemic. With low infection rates throughout Australia, businesses were a lot quicker to begin the road to recovery. As a representative from Oceania, Declan Dart, from Trumps Pty. Ltd. in Australia, and INC Ambassador to Australia was interviewed.

In the interview, Mr. Dart gave a unique viewpoint on the pandemic, saying, “the greatest difference in the situation and others we have faced is that it is worldwide and there has been an understanding throughout the supply chain including even retailers and consumers.” This demonstrates just how unprecedented COVID-19 is because the entire world is facing the same problem and the positive aspect of this is it allows for greater understanding. Mr. Dart also adds that “certainly in Australia it has been incredible how quickly businesses have responded and put in place risk mitigation processes. To a large extent, it has been business as usual.”

Although as with most situations, there is a positive and a negative. The negative for Australia is also their positive. Being secluded from most of the world has allowed them to avoid a high infection rate, but as Mr. Dart explains, “this remoteness has led to delays in all forms of cargo. International flights have been few, delaying any airfreight shipments, and there has been less frequency of container ships”.

Impact in Africa

Africa being one of the largest continents in size and population makes it difficult to capture the entire effect of COVID, but some countries are beginning to slowly ease lockdowns across the region. Ashok Krishen, from Olam in Singapore, and member of the INC Executive Committee is the representative for Africa as Olam has substantial business there.

Mr. Krishen highlights that it is important to understand the different regions of the world are affected in different waves and that “in Olam, having the breadth and depth of origins in both hemispheres has proved invaluable”.

He also makes the notion that ‘’with child labour and food security seen as increased risks amid the pandemic, particularly in rural farming communities, traceability and transparency are more critical than ever.” Lastly, Mr. Krishen anticipates that “post COVID-19, the consumer behavior and habits are likely to change and we will need to be agile to meet the changed expectations.”

 

Source: INC

Update – postharvest control of seed potatoes – Netherlands

Due to the Covid-19 situation, the Dutch Inspection Service NAK was struggling to source the vast amount of laboratory materials needed for post-harvest control of seed potatoes from its usual suppliers, which resulted in the message which was communicated last week. Fortunately, a last-minute shipment from an alternative source arrived on Thursday July 9th to successfully undergo quality inspection at NAK laboratory. This means that Dutch seed potatoes can undergo the usual rigid laboratory analyses to secure the high quality of Dutch seed potatoes. Source: Dutch Inspection Service NAK .

Port of Antwerp continues operations in reefer segment for perishable produce

Despite the difficult conditions following COVID-19, the Port of Antwerp has remained 100% operational and even achieved a growth in the volume of reefer containers for perishables during the first quarter.

The port was classified as ‘essential national infrastructure’ in Belgium. This allowed the port to continue to fulfil its role as an indispensable link for supplying Europe and contributing to an efficient supply chain with fresh fruit and vegetables. Despite the challenges, the service providers continued to guarantee fast and high-quality unloading. Various logistical services, such as storage and handling customs and food inspection formalities, continued to run efficiently. After a few relaxations in the handling of phytosanitary documents, it was also possible to work digitally, so that in the event that an original certificate was missing, no blockages were created.

The Food Safety Agency had a business continuity plan aiming to guarantee the continuity despite the impact of the crisis. Import and export inspections of foodstuffs are a priority task and must under no circumstances be interrupted. This ensured an effective response to the measures and risks posed by COVID-19. For example, the use of digital certificates instead of a paper version. Thanks to this plan, they were able to cope with the increased number of inspections.

Source: Flemish Government, Department for Agriculture and Fisheries

Dairy

  • Since the start of the crisis prices were lower because of:
    o   closure of hotels, restaurants cafés
    o   more difficult export and lack of containers, cargo ships
    o   higher supply due to seasonal peak of production
  • since week 25 price went up again only price for butter and whole milk powder stayed behind
  • There seems be a kind of stabilisation of prices in the past weeks since the European Union started with aid for private storage and with the reopening of the hotels, restaurants, cafés

Pork

  • Pig prices recovered, but the recovery is now levelling off. Prices are below the multiannual average and deeply below the high prices we have known since 2019 due to the high demand from China
  • For piglets we see at the moment  a stabilisation of prices at a level of 50% below the multiannual average
  • Slaughterhouses are reducing the number of slaughterings because of problems with exports, which means that pigs remain on pig farms. Piglets that are ready for slaughter cannot pass on.

Beef

  • After 7 years of slowly decreasing prices , the level of internal prices has started now to  increase
  • Why this increase? Every summer there is a small drop in supply due to the natural cycle, which slightly increases prices. This year, this coincides with increased consumption through supermarkets and butchers and with higher demand due to the barbecue season.
  • The qualities for export continued to decrease in price, only the last week there was a sigh of recovery
  • VEAL: export barriers for NL influence the entire EU market and depress prices and there is no storage aid from the European Union. Prices stabilize at a low level. The catering industry is slowly regaining momentum, but school meals and company canteens, for example, have not yet started and this still has its effect.

Lamb

  • Initially there was a sharp fall, then a recovery (Easter period), but lamb prices continue to fall and the trend follows the long-term average, but at a lever that is 2.88% lower.
  • Important trading partners have two different trends. UK, IE, BE follow the seasonal course. Price recovery in DE, NL and FR.
  • Lamb is also highly dependent on the catering industry.

Poultry

  • Falling demand (closure of catering and markets, declining exports) caused an oversupply so that meat had to be frozen. This causes loss of value and must compete with cheaply imported frozen meat.
  • We are currently experiencing a cautious price recovery despite good demand due to dumping prices in NL and PL. For the time being, the price level is still far below the long-term average

Eggs

  • Egg prices have shown different trends so far.
  • Free-range eggs fell in price, despite good demand from retail. There was also a higher supply that could not be used in the processing industry. From week 17, there was a slight recovery.
  • Enriched cage eggs fell sharply due to the stoppage of sales and processing. Here too, there was a slight recovery from week 17 but that decreased towards week 25

Cereals

  • After a volatile period, grain prices rose. This was due to the hoarding behaviour towards grain products (bread, pasta) and then through the construction of strategic stocks of countries. Prices are now stable.
  • Although there has been a slight decrease since week 25, due to good harvest expectations. However, much will depend on drought and rain

Potatoes

  • In Belgium, potatoes are highly dependent on us for export (90% frozen French fries are intended for export).
  • Overproduction was caused by disturbances in the supply chain and exports.
  • The postponement of international events such as the Olympic Games and the European Football Championship is also felt in demand
  • For the future harvest, we expect a production drop of 5%. However, this decline will not be enough to correct the current market imbalance.
  • In Week 25, the prices therefore remain low at a level of 3-5 € / 100kg.
  • The Flemish government will activate an emergency fund of 10 million euros for the potato sector

Vegetables/fruits

  • For the first few weeks, there was a clear fall in prices for vegetables and fruit. Especially for those products with a strong sales in catering (lettuce, arugula, cucumber, tomato).
  • The price recovered in the following weeks.
  • Although exports remains difficult.
  • The season for small (red) fruit is in full swing with good prices for cherries, blueberries and raspberries.
  • For apples and pears, the demand for local product remained stable with good price formation in the last 2 months

The avocado sector – trade statistics European Union supply

Source: Fruitcon

The Corona crisis – an opportunity to rethink the food value chain: Insight and outlook

Source: www.invisible-foods.eu – Nicolas Wenz

SWG has been organizing a series of videoconferences of the Ministers of Agriculture of the countries/territories of the Western Balkans to address the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the agricultural sector in the Western Balkans through border closures, disruptions in the production, food supply chain, trade and market.

The Third videoconference on the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the agricultural sector in the Western Balkans was held on 27 May and was attended by Ministers and high-level representatives of the Ministries of Agriculture of the Western Balkans and some of its neighbouring countries, as well as the European Commission (DG AGRI and DG NEAR), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC). They discussed levels of agricultural production and reserves; surpluses, deficits and free movement of ag products in the region and with EU; the impact of COVID-19 on the rural areas; FAO and EC’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

The conclusions from the Third videoconference are available 

click on the link to access the Conclusions from the two previous video conference:

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EY Future Consumer Index: How COVID-19 is changing consumer behaviors
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Kantar Reframe, reskill, reset: how to win over the next 24 months. Brands now have an opportunity to reframe categories and business models, reset investment priorities and reskill teams to enhance organisational and individual capabilities.
Marketing Week The ‘new normal’ is just another bullshit line marketers have swallowed Marketers should be as wary of those predicting the marketing world is about to change forever as they are of people who thought Oreo’s Superbowl tweet was the future of marketing strategy
Professor David Hughes Ten Pointers About the Food Chain Post-Covid
US Pork Board Profit Maximizer: A biweekly report - Retail Edition
Washington Post The meat industry is trying to get back to normal. But workers are still getting sick — and shortages may get worse.

  Source: Private sector (IMS)

Bord Bia Market and Sector Insights Covid-19 Impact on Trade.
Civil Eats Civil Eats is a daily news source for critical thought about the American food system. We publish stories that shift the conversation around sustainable agriculture in an effort to build economically and socially just communities. Recommeded as regular reading by Melissa.
Food Dive Food Dive is tracking the status of operations of major manufacturers’ plants as they navigate the pandemic. This tracker will be updated with our own coverage and aggregated news to map the virus’ impact on the food supply.
IRI Worldwide Consumer spending tracker for measured channels in US, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, NZ and the Netherlands.
vox.com ‘America’s meat shortage is more serious than your missing hamburgers’ - Sick workers mean meatpacking plants are shutting down, and these closures are contributing to a deeply disruptive breakdown in the meat supply chain. And that’s just what’s already happened. As the pandemic’s effects stretch into the summer, outbreaks in meatpacking plants are creating ripple effects. Slower lines in the plants mean less meat makes it to market, while farmers are slaughtering millions of animals that can’t get processed due to the slowdown of the lines. It’s a paradox that could disrupt America’s food supply for years to come.
Facebook’s shift to work from home is another sign of a post-pandemic remote work future. The tech giant laid out an optimistic vision of an increasingly remote work future, saying that the company will increase its workforce’s diversity by recruiting outside the usual tech hubs of San Francisco and other major cities.
Demand for meatless meat is skyrocketing during the pandemic “There was still plenty of beef and chicken to be had — but given that a live-animal market in China may have given rise to Covid-19 and that the giant factory farms that supply 99 percent of America’s meat are a pandemic risk too, meat just seemed very unappealing in that moment. Instead, I grabbed a package of Beyond Meat and went home.”

Source: Private sector (IMS)

COVID-19 impact on potato market – selected European Union countries

In May 2020, UNECE conducted a short survey on the fluctuations in demand for fresh, processed or seed potatoes in selected member states of European Union. The survey was done in light of the current COVID-19 crisis situation and its potential impact on the upcoming harvest.

The survey revealed that in some countries there was a significant increase in the demand for fresh potatoes (e.g. Germany, the Netherlands), especially at the start of the lockdown.

In the United Kingdom (UK), Germany, the Netherlands and, particularly Belgium there was a much lower demand for the processing varieties due to closure of the hospitality industry, which also led to a dramatic price drop for potatoes intended for French fries.

Belgium reported having another 1,7 mio tons of potatoes in storage as of the beginning of April 2020. These are mainly potatoes intended for processing and 500,000 tons of them are free market potatoes and will not be able to be processed.

The Netherlands reported having another 1 mio tons of unprocessed harvest, some of which is being processed for flakes or will be used as animal feed.

Belgium reported a 10% decrease in the planted area for seed potatoes.

Finland reported no significant changes to the demand in neither of the three potato categories,

As for the impact on the harvest, most countries forseen rather moderate impact. Belgium, for example, reported that their small companies should be able to manage their potato harvest in the absense of seasonal workers. The Netherlands a large protato producer said that they don’t depend on seasonal labor.

 

Articles compilation for UNECE Food Outlook provided by EUCOFEL

Source: Private sector (EUCOFEL)

CNN Video clip - Hog farmer: I never imagined having to do this. A Minnesota hog farm is gearing up for a trau- matizing experience amid the closing of American pork plants during the coronavirus pandemic.
David Hughes  Article - Trust Me, I’m a Farmer (or Fisherman)!
Idealog  Pivot, don’t panic: how to stay grounded during disruption
Kantar COVID-19: Critical Capabilities for Marketing and Sales: Now and Next. As we move from reacting to adapting to the change, this means we need to recognise and fast forward the critical capabilities for success.
During this session the following is discussed:
•    What impact has COVID-19 had on sales and marketing due to changing consumer behaviours/attitudes?
•    What is the role of marketing and sales both independently and jointly?
•    What are the critical capabilities needed to fast track now and next to be successful?
People.com Article - Kroger Introduces 2-Pack Limit on Fresh Chicken, Pork, and Beef in Stores Nationwide
Temple Grandin Article - Big Meat Supply Chains Are Fragile

Source: Private sector (IMS)

Dairy

  • Prices were lower because of
    o   closure of hotels, restaurants cafés
    o   more difficult export and lack of containers, cargo ships
    o   Higher supply due to seasonal peak of production
  • For example: current prices for Mozzarella, our most important product, decreased with 18% since the start  of the Covid-19 crisis
  • There seems be a kind of stabilisation of prices on the way in the past week since the European Union announced aid for private storage

Pork

  • Prices are still decreasing due to mix of many international factors.
  • There are as well low prices in other exporting markets like US, CA, BR, EU-prices are not competitive on international market
  • Cargo shortage hinders exports to China, leading to more supply entering the EU market
  • Problems to deliver to slaughterhouse, pigs become overweight and have a lower supplement per kg.
  • Prices of piglets decreasing because of uncertainty of the sector
  • We have two major opposing forces in the international market. On the one hand, the immense demand from China after losing half of their pig herd by African swine fever in late 2019. Chinese production is still not catching up fast enough and we see that China is increasing its imports very quickly, now in recent months. China can shop easily on the world market. That is less favourable for the EU.
  • Meanwhile, the American slaughterhouses suffer from a lot of contamination among their labourers, because of which many slaughterhouses are closed in the US. Therefore, their production should decrease.
  • Another important price-depressing factor is the presence of African swine fever in Eastern Europe

Beef

  • Bull prices remain stable
  • The decline for cows has always been slight, but has been consistent for weeks while prices have long been low
  • Sales through retail and butchers normalize.
  • Restaurant quality beef still suffers
  • Expensive parts must now be frozen and will later have to be sold at a lower value
  • Calves prices decreasing
  • Also incidental seasonal effect.
  •  EU prices have seen a stronger decline in the past weeks. From May, the EU will start supporting private storage for rear quarter beef to support prices
  • Veal was hit hard by Covid-19, as veal is mainly sold in the catering industry.
  • Veal is not bought at supermarkets at the same price levels. Slaughterhouses have to freeze the expensive parts now and sell them later, with reduced value. Private storage aid does not apply here.

Lamb

  • This sector, first experienced a major decline, followed by a recovery.
  • Prices of lamb fall with the seasonal trend, but are still 5% below the Long-term average.
  • The retail also sells lamb, but not enough to offset the catering industry. This is also often imported lamb meat.
  • Unfortunately, the Ramadan has not had too great a corrective effect, probably because gatherings of friends and families are not allowed.
  • Applications for EU private storage aid can also be submitted for this sector from today.

Poultry

  • In poultry, we did not immediately notice a decrease in the first two weeks after Covid-19; this was due to the large hoarding behaviour in the first weeks that was strong in chicken meat.
  • After that, we saw a big drop in prices. Nevertheless, these have remained the same for three weeks, although at a very low level.
  • Several factors play a role in this:
    o   Closing the catering industry,
    o   Cheap imports
    o   Poland bringing larger quantities on the market at low prices

Eggs

  • Prices of eggs:
    o   drop for free range eggs (consumption eggs)
    o   increase for cage eggs (these were used for industry and had previously experienced a heavy decline)
  • The problem with hatching eggs and day-old chicks persists. There are no planes to move hatching eggs. In many other markets, there is no demand to absorb this surplus.

Cereals

  • Grain prices have fallen internationally after the Covid-19 measures, but have subsequently risen due to:
    o   Great hoarding behaviour towards grain products
    o   Countries that want to build up strategic reserves
    o   Prices rose last week after Russia indicated to limit its exports before keeping its own supplies ready until the next harvest
    o   Concerns about the dry sowing conditions in Europe.
  • This price increase has now disappeared perhaps because the concerns about that drought are partly subsiding after a short period of heavy rainfall.

Potatoes

  • Large quantities of potatoes are still in the sheds, and large portion of free market potatoes (without contract) will not be able to be processed.
  • Some quantities of potatoes are donated to foodbanks.
  • There is not much movement in the past week with the potatoes compared to previous weeks.
  • The free market prices for potatoes have fallen very sharply with 29% and are l virtually worthless.
  • The EU relaxed  the competition rules for 6 months to allow for agreements on production planning.
  • We have two problems with potatoes: an oversupply and our dependence on exports. These are probably also linked.
  • Postponement of major global events such as the Olympic Games and the European Football Championship could also reduce demand.

Vegetables/fruits

  • Prices of the vegetables have recovered
  • Only cucumber continues to struggle with its prices, but that is because there is a large supply
  • The prices for apples and pears are also better.
    o   In fact, pears are above their multi-annual average because our stocks are nearly depleted
    o   Apples are at their multi-annual average.

Implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the European Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Sector
        Impact Assessment
        Impact Assessment Fact Sheet

Source: private sector (Freshfel Europe)

Update Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (BMLRT) Austria

Which measures have been taken in Austria to support the agricultural sector amid the COVID-19 pandemic?

The Ministry’s activities in general

  • Periodic updates on the situation in the food retail sector, of the production, preparation and evaluation of scenarios/recommendation of measures
  • Regular reporting on the measures for the agricultural sector of other MS as well as on general measures taken to combat the virus (closure of borders, restrictions of the movement of persons)
  • Measures to cushion the impact of the reduced mobility of persons (seasonal workers, harvesters)

Hardship fund

  • Was established to support small enterprises as well as holdings in agriculture and forestry.
  • What are the conditions to receive support?
    o  The income of agricultural and forestry holdings needs to  be generated exclusively by agricultural and forestry production
    o   Holdings need to be full-time ventures with a basic value not superior to 150.000 EUR. The net revenue must not exceed 550.000 EUR; the additional income must be below the de minimis limit.
         §  A drop in sales of at least 50% compared to the reference month of the previous year needs to be proven
         §  or there is proof of an increase in costs for external employees of at least 50% compared to the reference month of the previous year.
  • The payment takes place in two phases (in total up to 6.000 EUR). Phase 1 (emergency aid) started on 30 March:
    o  Basic value less than 10.000 EUR: grant of 500 EUR
    o  Basic value more than 10.000 EUR: grant of 1.000 EUR

Online platforms

  •  www.frischzumir.at: this website offers an overview of those agricultural producers that now deliver their products to people’s doorstep. Agricultural holdings across Austria can be found on the digital map. There are three categories of what the farms offer:
    1) Full range - delivery across Austria (from bread, milk and meat to vegetables)
    2) regional delivery (from bread, milk to meat to vegetables - special areas)
    3) Specialties - Austria-wide delivery (regional specialties)
  • www.frischzumir.at gives information about delivery area and assortment. People can order directly from the agricultural holding they choose. Currently 400 farms take part in this project.
  • www.dielebensmittelhelfer.at:  this platform aims to find workers in the food sector, which faces shortages due to the current situation. Companies can register their needs and volunteers can provide their workforce. The aim is to support the companies in this difficult situation and ensure the food supply.

Source: Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (BMLRT) Austria

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Talk Business Article: Meat market watchers note production, financial issues with COVID-19 outbreak

Source: IMS

Europe and Central Asia: Regional food market situation and policy bulletin in response to the COVID-19 pandemic - Policy brief issued by FAO, dated 29 April 2020

Situation update in Poland (Agricultural and Food Quality Inspection

Note: The Agricultural and Food Quality Inspection (AFQI) is one of several inspection authorities in Poland. AFQI is responsible among others for the control of fresh fruit and vegetables for which requirements are laid down in the marketing standards. AFQI carries out inspections of fresh fruit and vegetables at the stage of import and export, as well as in domestic trade, excluding retail. From 1 July this year, AFQI will also be responsible for the control at the retail stage due to the handover of competences from another institution.

It should be underlined that AFQI is not responsible for sanitary and phytosanitary controls.

  • Border checks on conformity of fresh fruit and vegetables with marketing standards at the stage of import and export from third countries (i.e. outside the EU) are carried out by AFQI on an ongoing basis. These checks are carried out as always based on a risk analysis. At this moment, there is no information about any disruption in these controls. Importers and exporters do their best to ensure that fresh fruit and vegetables meet the requirements of commercial quality. In most cases, they are well known to the Polish local inspection authorities. During the inspection of fresh fruit and vegetables at the import and export stage, practically no irregularities are found.
  • Checks on fresh fruit and vegetables within the country are carried out based on the annual control plan. The general inspection of fresh fruit and vegetables at stages supervised by AFQI took place nationwide in the first quarter of this year and the collected data is still being compiled. Since COVID-19 broke out in Poland in March when the controls were practically finalized, the results should not differ significantly from the previous ones.
  • Certain official controls might be difficult to carry out in the coming months owing to sanitary restrictions resulting from the adoption of COVID-19 related temporary measures, i.e. control activities must be carried out in such a way as to ensure the safety of both the inspector and the trader. Therefore, AFQI will use available distance communication when carrying out certain control activities to minimize the physical presence of the inspector at the place of control.
  • During the inspection, AFQI does not collect official data on product prices and does not carry out market analyses of: demand, supply and food stocks in Poland. Since the emergency related to COVID-19 in our country has been going on for almost 2 months, it is currently difficult to obtain official data in this respect. It should be stressed that food, including fresh fruit and vegetables (both those of domestic origin and those from other countries) are generally available in Poland. At present, it is difficult to predict how the situation will change in the coming months.
  • During the inspection activities AFQI must consider Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/466 of 30 March 2020 on temporary measures to contain risks to human, animal and plant health and animal welfare during certain serious disruptions of Member States’ control systems due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
  • It should be stressed that the season of harvesting of fresh fruit and vegetables in Poland has just begun. In Poland, specific national legislation has been adopted to define anti-crisis measures in relation to COVID-19. The provisions include actions to facilitate entrepreneurs and farmers to run their business in this difficult condition.
  • The need to extend the sanitary restrictions may have negative consequences at the stage of carrying out agrotechnical treatments as well as harvesting of fruit and vegetables if people, including seasonal workers, are needed to carry out these activities.

Impact of COVID 19 on the agricultural sector in the Western Balkans and possible joint actions

COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the agricultural sector in the Western Balkans through border closures, disruptions in the production, food supply chain, trade and market. To address the current situation, SWG is organizing a series of video conferences of the Ministers of Agriculture of the countries/territories of the Western Balkans. The second Ministerial video conference was attended by Ministers and high-level representatives of the Ministries of Agriculture of the Western Balkans, DG AGRI and DG NEAR discussing: free movement of the agricultural products in the region; levels of production and reserves, surpluses and deficits of ag products; issues in trade with the EU countries; need for flexibility of IPARD and other EU programs intended for support of the agricultural sector in the Western Balkans.

Download the Video Conference Summary and Conclusions

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries sector is regarded as part of essential services in South Africa and can continue to operate under lockdown conditions.

The following was reported by South African exporter as points of concern:

  • Due to the cancellation of flights it is very difficult and, in some cases, impossible to courier original documentation to trading partners in various countries. The situation is compounded by limited human capacity available at the ports of entry.
  • There is a global shortage of refrigerated containers. The shortage of containers is escalated by the port congestions within Asia as a result of COVID-19.
  • It has been reported that some non-citrus fruits with shorter shelf lives are not performing well in international markets as consumers move towards products that allow them to reduce their store visits and prefer fruit with associated health benefits for the immune system. These factors are driving prices down in these categories.
  • On the positive side demand remains strong from the retail sector, especially for oranges and lemons as consumers turns to healthy eating habits.
  • The three most important challenges reported thus far are:
         o  The closure of borders or other barriers to trade in import markets
         o   Non-payment of orders
         o   Reduced or disrupted operations at seaports

Source: public sector South Africa

Dairy

Lower prices because of

  • closure of hotels, restaurants cafés
  • more difficult export and lack of containers, cargo ships
  • Higher supply due to seasonal peak of production.

Pork

  • Prices decreasing but still above the average price
  • Cargo shortage hinders exports to China, leading to more supply entering the EU market
  • Problems to deliver to slaughterhouse, pigs become overweight and have a lower supplement per kg.
  • Prices of piglets decreasing as well because of uncertainty.

Beef

  • Bull prices remain stable
  • The decline for cows has always been slight, but has been consistent for weeks while prices have long been low
  • Sales through retail and butchers normalize.
  • Restaurant quality beef still suffers
  • Expensive parts must now be frozen and will later have to be sold at a lower value
  • Calves prices decreasing
  • Also incidental seasonal effect.

Lamb

  • Prices decrease initially but recovered slightly
  • Fattening Easter lambs (March-June) is expensive and those should be sold during this period with high prices to stay profitable. But they probably will sold later but then the become Pasture lambs" and worth 30% less
  • Ramadan might have a positive effect on prices.

Poultry

  • Decline continues to alarmingly low.
  • Margin is normally earned on fresh fillet. But they will now have to be frozen which will have then to compete with Brazilian imports at low prices.

Eggs

  • Retail demand is high but not high enough to keep prices stable. Prices are still above the long-term average and follow the seasonal trend, but the market is still unstabl
  • We see a difference between free-range eggs(for fresh market)  and enriched cage eggs (for industry).

Cereals

  • Grain prices have risen in recent weeks. This was initially due to large hoarding behaviour of consumers towards grain products (bread, pasta) and then by building strategic reserves of countries (e.g. major purchase in China, but also Russia and Ukraine reduce d exports)
  • Stabilization increased prices for bread wheat and forage wheat.

Sugar

  • Forward markets for raw sugar (NY) and white sugar (London) are falling sharply.
  • Brazil (the largest sugar producer) is shifting its sugar cane production from bioethanol to sugar due to the crash oil price.
  • Currency depreciation of sugar exporting countries makes their exports more attractive.

Potatoes

  • Large quantities of potatoes are still in the sheds, a large part of which is without a contract. There are limitations to alternatives to these potatoes, such as fermentation for bioethanol and for livestock farming. The vast majority of free market potatoes will not be able to be processed and might be dumped on the land.
  • Prices on free market virtually zero as no transactions take place (farmers cannot sell production)
  • 90% of our frozen fries is for export. This export is falling due to the closure of catering establishments abroad and the postponement of major events such as the Olympic Games and the European Football Championship
  • Some quantities of potatoes are donated to foodbanks.

Vegetables/fruits

  • Consumers buy more fruits and vegetables because they all cook at home
  • Prices for vegetables recover slightly since the beginning of the crisis, but are usually lower than the pre-corona era
  • Some products like asparagus have higher prices because of lack of supply due to shortage of seasonal labourers
  • Prices for apples are 18% cheaper than pre-corona
  • Prices for pears are stable
  • Exotic produce becomes more and more expensive
  • There is a danger of oversupply of cucumbers. There is a lot of effort to prevent food losses
  • Because of closure of restaurants, food banks find it more difficult to receive enough product.

Source: Flemish Government, Department for Agriculture and Fisheries

  • In Kenya, most activities especially those which require physical contact have been closed. However, the essential services are allowed to continue for trade facilitation.
  • Producers have had to scale down on production due to reduced cargo space and cancelled orders in the last week.
  • There has been a slow improvement in the airlifting of cargo as two major airlines their passenger flights to carry cargo.
  • As the market reorganizes to absorb the shock of the pandemic, it is likely to see higher poverty levels for the developing countries whose livelihoods is mainly depended on agriculture.
  • The supply chain in Kenya remains solid, however, it is also likely to see more of online trade than before.
  • The shortage of fresh produce is a likely scenario in the immediate, but this shall not last for long as producers move in quickly to respond to the demand.

Source: Public sector, Kenya

Analysis of the Impact of Global Coronavirus Pandemic on the North Macedonian Agriculture with Proposed Measures

COVID-19 has long exceeded the epidemiological profile and constantly raises questions about the way consumers, businesses and governments should most successfully meet the imposed challenges. The restrictions caused by the crisis make disruption to marketing channels and trade in agricultural products with a significant impact on the rural population dependent on them, and with potential threats to food supply and food security.

Due to the unpredictability of the scope and duration of the outbreak, quantifying the impact is yet difficult to scale, all the more so that the coronavirus time coincides with the onset of signs of a global recession. By combined and interacted acting the consequences are expected additionally deepen and harmful.

Some effects are already evident, whiles others will be felt later. The impact of the crisis is expected to be widespread across the whole value chain, to hit the regular operation of the production, buy out and processing of agricultural products, and the export of goods with market surpluses. It may disturb the regular supply of sufficient quantities of food from domestic origin or import at affordable prices.

The production process may be affected by the disrupted supply of necessary inputs caused by the ban on export by some countries or due to operating problems of the suppliers. North Macedonian agriculture is significantly dependent on many imported inputs, such as seeds for cereals, seedlings for vegetable production (mostly for the large greenhouses), phytosanitary chemicals, fertilizers and packaging, and animal feed in livestock breeding. Agriculture as a highly labor-intensive activity may easily be concerned with the restrictions imposed on the movement of people. A possible scenario is that epidemiological outbreak may affect the family farms which are dominantly operated by elderly farmers as the most vulnerable category, but also the larger legal entities, particularly in viticulture and orchards which depend on the mobility of seasonal labor. Border closures including to the neighboring Kosovo and Albania can adversely impact the sheep grazing as the only subsector where the workers are mainly provided across the borders. On the other hand, the expected shortage may possibly be compensated by the North Macedonian seasonal workforce which this time is blocked to travel to their traditional job destinations in northern Italy or Greece.

On the domestic supply side, the restricted regime on a movement that is already in place, impedes the buying out of agricultural products, particularly where it is carried out on a daily basis, such as in dairy, poultry or pig-breeding industries for instance. The closure of the hospitality industry meant a loss of regular sales channels for those vegetables and meat (mainly pork and some beef) production farms who were the main suppliers of the local restaurants and butchers. As to the price concerns, there is a potential risk some of the local traders to misuse the current markets emergency for gaining extra margins by employing an unjustifiable increase in selling prices of inputs or reduction of buying prices of agricultural products.

As a consequence of product durability which nicely fits with the trend of panic buying and storage building all around the globe, the export-oriented fruit and vegetable processing industry might look like an absolute winner in a situation. Still, the potential shortage in the supply of raw materials and lack of manpower may easily bring them big challenges as well.

The logistic and transport problems emerging from the countries' lockdowns are common, both for the basic North Macedonian foodstuffs exported abroad, such as fruits, vegetables, and lamb meat, and for higher-priced, quality or more luxurious products like wine and tobacco. As a result of the drop in demand, the last, also, may expect lower prices, shrinkage of orders and even termination of the contracts. This can bring to surpluses at the domestic market, increased stocks, and reluctance for buying raw materials, a well-known, unpleasant experience of the wine industry from the last global economic crisis some ten years ago.

The agricultural sector and food production are of strategic interest for every country, especially in times of crisis. Maintaining the level of normal operation to provide foodstuffs to feed the population is one of the several top priorities along with the public health and security. Therefore, the policy response to mitigate the risks of the restrictions and economic downturn should be swift and enable businesses to maintain their operating potential so that they can later respond adequately to the challenges of the upcoming economic crisis as well. Many of these responses are impossible without coordination and solidarity among the countries since we are sharing the same global market and even more the same global challenges.

Source: Perica Ivanoski, Senior Policy Analysis and Capacity Building Expert in Agriculture and Rural Development

IRi COVID-19 Impact: Consumer spending tracker for measured channels.
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How shopping behaviour is evolving in South East Asia: How consumer behaviour has changed, what it means for brands, and the truth behind some common myths
Lessons from China FMCG’s recovery after COVID-19: Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in January, China’s FMCG market was significantly impacted as shoppers were confined to their homes
COVID-19: Unlocking the ‘new normals’. Director of Expert Solutions, Phil Dorsett takes a look at how brands, manufacturers and retailers can combine purchase and usage insight to forecast demand and find the “new normal”
Marketing Week The best marketers will be upping, not cutting, their budgets: It may seem like a paradox, but recessionary periods actually provide fertile grounds for marketers to grow their brand’s market share if they’re prepared to think long-term
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Shopper Intelligence New Data On Current Shopping Behaviours: Off shelf and display are getting greater engagement and awareness. ‘At home’ consumption of typical ‘out of home’ occasions means a new opportunity for brands that act. Bigger shops, focus on availability and choice, less time wanted in store
StopPress NZ Simple strategies to explore right now on social media: “The landscape right now reminds me of how we “did social” 10 years ago. There was no budget – we leveraged mostly organic activity on social, and our objective was simply to engage a social community and be helpful. We aimed to just keep the conversation going so when people were ready to buy from us, they would come to us because of a perceived relationship with the brand.”

Source: IMS

AlltechA special discussion series, Forging the Future of the Farm & Food Chain, created by Alltech in which experts from across the globe join panel discussions to share insights into how COVID-19 is impacting the agriculture sector.
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Kantar Chinese fresh food sales boosted by COVID-19: Examine three aspects to the growth in the demand for fresh food in China, and what these consumption trends mean for brands and retailers.
Kantar Retail learnings from the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy: COVID-19’s effects on shopper spend and sentiment, and the brand and retailer response.
Kekst CNC COVID-19 Opinion Tracker - “people across four countries surveyed said they will travel abroad less, travel by plane less, go to public events less, and eat out at restaurants less after the crisis has passed – particularly in the US.”
Marketing Week Everything will change forever after coronavirus…won’t it? Predictions of fundamental change after Covid-19 are driven by the biased perspectives of those making them – in reality, most things will go back to how they were.
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US Pork Board As many Americans stay home to slow the spread of COVID-19, a large percentage are doing so alone. Insight to Action data shows those eating solo may create different eating habits during those occasions than during other dining occasions. Social distancing is further changing solo dining habits, as many people are connecting with others virtually, through YouTube, Google Hangouts, and Zoom or Skype meetings.

 

Virtual dinner parties or happy hours are on the rise.

Source IMS

Impact of COVID 19 on the agricultural sector in the Western Balkans and possible joint actions

The Regional Rural Development Standing Working Group in South Eastern Europe (SWG), within its mission for regional cooperation in the Western Balkans, at the initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy of North Macedonia, organized a video conference in which Ministers and high level officials responsible for agriculture in the countries/territories of the Western Balkans discussed: current situation in agriculture in each country/territory; food self-sufficiency; surpluses and deficits of specific types of agri-food products (primary, processed and animal feed); open agricultural trade issues and possible actions for trade facilitation.

Download the Video Conference Summary and Conclusions

UNECE led by the delegation from the United States sent out a survey to its members to better understand the effects of the current COVID-19 crisis on the potato markets worldwide. The survey included the fresh market potatoes which are sold in supermarkets etc and intended for direct consumption (boiled, baked); potatoes for processing, i.e. for industrial use and further processing (chips, fries, flakes or other potato and starch products); as well as seed potatoes which are intended for replanting to produce a new plant and hence more tubers.

Before COVID-19: According to the majority of 26 survey respondents from France (9), Germany (2), Belgium (2), Netherlands (4), United States (2), Poland, Scotland, Finland, New Zealand, Russia, and India, countries reported sufficient seed potato supplies for both the fresh market and for processing varieties before COVID-19.

Poland is the only country in Europe that reported a short pre-Covid-19 supply of seed potatoes for both processing and fresh market varieties.

Following the outbreak of COVID-19, most countries indicated a reduced demand for processing varieties, while the demand for fresh market varieties remained mostly unaffected. The closure of the HoReCa (Hotel, restaurants, catering) sector is mostly to be blamed for this decline. For example, as a result of the reduction in orders for processing varieties, the United States’ short supply of seed before the outbreak transitioned into a surplus, following the pandemic. 

India was the only respondent that indicated that there were no changes in supply or demand after Covid-19, and that no orders for either processing or fresh market varieties had been changed.  Russia saw no changes on the supply side, but there was an increase in orders for fresh market potato varieties.  New Zealand reported sufficient supplies for both fresh market and processing varieties before the outbreak and a surplus in processing seed potato varieties after the outbreak.

For the detailed result of the survey, please contact UNECE.

 

 

 

 

 

1. INTRODUCTION

At the Flemish Government Department for Agriculture and Fisheries, the market situation for the different agricultural sectors especially the  prices and  the  trade are closely monitored. In most sectors the impact can be seen after w12 since this is when the Belgian government implemented the nationwide lockdown.

2. DAIRY

Prices of butter, skimmed milk powder and whole milk powder have been in decline. At first the panic buying in grocery stores kept demand high but once this effect lessened, the prices declined. The closer we come to May, the closer we come to the peak of production which has a negative effect on the prices. In the most recent week (w14) we have seen the sharpest decline.

Price drop since lock down Butter: -8.6%
SMP: -8.4%
WMP: -5.4%

3. PIG MEAT

Prices dropped in w12 with 5% because of two reasons: difficulties in exporting due to shortage of ships and a drop of internal consumption due to closure of restaurants and canteens.

  • Due to a drop in economic activities in China there have been less cargo ships to export   European pig meat. China is >50% of European pig meat export. This meat stayed on the European market and pushed prices down.
  • Restaurants and canteens closed which reduced consumption significantly and couldn’t be compensated by the increased consumption in supermarkets during the panic buying.
Price drop since lock down Pig meat: -7.43%
Piglets: -14.95%

4. BEEF

Two beef prices are important in Belgium. High meat quality bull meat (AS2) and lower quality cow meat (DO3). Both declined while prices have been low for years.

  • The lower quality cow meat has had the largest decline. It is more dependent on export.
  • The high-quality bull meat has seen a less steep decline. This is because this meat – mostly Belgian Blue – is aimed at the internal Belgian consumption. Also, the pressing shortage of workers in the slaughterhouses has forced slaughterhouses to reduce their production, stabilizing the prices due to lower offer. The shortage comes from the fact that many workers in slaughterhouses come from Eastern European countries where they now remain in lock down.
Price drop since lock down AS2 bulls: +0.52%
DO3 cows: -3.12%

5. VEAL AND LAMB

Veal and lamb meat are highly dependent on restaurant consumption. With the closing of the restaurants, we see a decline in the prices. For veal it still is unsure how much of the drop is seasonal and how much is because of stopped consumption. Again, here the shortage of workers in slaughterhouses limits the productions and could limit the decline in prices.

Price drop since lock down Veal: -5.33%
Lamb: -6.69%

6. POULTRY

Prices dropped in w14 with 9%. This large drop can be attributed to different factors:

  • there is no more consumption in restaurants,
  • there is no poultry anymore being sold on markets,
  • because of the lockdown in the UK consumption here has declined (an important BE export market)
  • because of a shortage of cargo ships more poultry meat stays in the European internal market.

During the first weeks, prices have remained stable because of the impact of panic buying. Consumers in grocery stores easily buy poultry meat and eggs when panic buying.

For eggs the prices for eggs for consumption have remained stable (because of panic buying), while for the industry has severely declined (because of closure of restaurants).

Price drop since lock down Poultry: -10,59%
Eggs (consumption): +2.51%
Eggs (industry): -21.75%

7. CEREALS

Prices are dependent on international markets. We see an increase in w13 of 6 to 7% for wheat since it was expected that international offer would decrease from Russia and Ukraine (or even stop), lowering the offer. On the other hand, demand increased since many countries are making strategic reserves of cereals and making large orders – such as China – but demand also increased due to a larger consumption of cereal products during panic buying (bread, pasta, noodles …).

Price drop since lock down Wheat (consumption): +9.63%
Wheat (feed): +8.84%

8. POTATOES

Potatoes in Belgium are traded under contracts or on the free market (the minority). Although being the minority, the free market potatoes are a good indicator of market sentiment. They have plunged by 29% during w12. 90% of the fries produced in BE are aimed for export. With the closure of restaurants globally and postponement of Olympic games and European Championship football the exports and so also the prices of free market potatoes have dropped significantly.

Price drop since lock down -29% (since last transaction)

9. LIVE PLANTS AND FLORICULTURE PRODUCTS

This sector is heavily and directly impacted by the lockdown. With the closure of flower shops and garden centers, floriculture products cannot be sold in a period where 80% of their production is marketed (period March-April).

10. FISHERIES

A higher offer pushed down prices by -24% since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis. More particularly for sole, this has been -37%. In w14 these prices have seen a small recovery.

(Source: Flemish Government, DEPARTEMENT FOR AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES)

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Source:  IMS  

Constant rainfall in Valencia and Murcia region haven't allowed producers to harvest citrus and vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli, and lettuce. Even with rains slowing down, these products are among the most demanded export products since the coronavirus alarm was declared.

According to the transport companies:

  • their export trips have dropped by about 30% in the past week and prices continue to rise as import declines
  • it is increasingly difficult to find drivers, as they can hardly stop anywhere to eat and rest
  • drivers request higher salary/premium

(Source: private sector)

Meat markets

  • Domestic retail has seen panic buying of commodity products such as cheese, mince beef, sausages etc as households seek to stock up on easy, cheap and food they are comfortable with
  • Steak cuts suffering as foodservice shut down and lack of retail demand has led to carcass imbalance and surplus
  • Export logistics difficult hampering overseas trade esp lamb as EU markets also change consumption patterns and Easter is likely to be a non-event for family gatherings where lamb would be consumed
  • Air freight reduced significantly and where available, is cost prohibitive
  • Dairy- closure of coffee shops has resulted in surplus milk on market and price crash
  • Asia is recovering and export demand is returning, esp as China begins the slow climb out of COVID
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Nielsen Insightful read on How Asian consumers are rethinking their eating habits post COVID 19
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World Trade Organisation The heads of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a joint statement on 31 March calling on governments to minimise the impact of COVID-19 related border restrictions on trade in food. “Now is the time to show solidarity, act responsibly and adhere to our common goal of enhancing food security, food safety and nutrition and improving the general welfare of people around the world,”

Market situation

  • Closure of HoReCa sector (hotels, restaurants and caterings, cafés, canteens) has a big impact, especially on fresh produce as well as some other produce (potatoes used for French fries in fast food joints) and on some smaller specialized companies that supply catering
  • Ban on open farmers’ markets in several towns/countries is mostly affecting smaller farmers in the areas concerned. Market produce is not always likely to be transferred to the retail sector because of different quality requirements or expectations. Besides, retailers have their preferred channels of procurement.
  • Sales in supermarkets are still good and pulling the market. However, after an initial peak in demand, the market for fresh fruit and vegetables has weakened now and prices might start falling because customers go shopping less frequently than before. This affects already the sales of the very perishable produce, like strawberries.

Selected examples

  • Problems are very real for several typical products such as arugula or rocket, cresses and other specialties of lettuces and sprouts. Prices for asparagus are already 50% lower than in the same period last year.
  • The situation is rather stable for table fruit (apple and pear); with no big effects on prices yet.
  • Floriculture has come to a complete standstill because of the closure of all shops and garden centres.
  • Potatoes:

    • HORECA closure and cancellation of all big events means demand for French fries is falling
    • Fresh market: a strong rise in sales due to the hoarding behaviour of supermarket customers
    • Frozen fries: 2/3 is sold in the EU, 1/3 outside the EU. Exports continue to go, but some logistical problems (higher container costs, closure of some national borders) will emerge.

Impact on workforce

  • The sector is heavily dependent on foreign seasonal agricultural workforce.
  • Many seasonal workers returned to their respective home countries or are affected by travel bans and border closures.
  • Growing shortage of labour deriving from the travel restrictions implemented by most countries to curb the spread of COVID-19 will soon be a major problem.
  • Due to labour shortages, some fruits and vegetables are left unharvested, entailing significant financial losses for growers.
  • This will be particularly the case for asparagus and strawberries, which are very labour intensive and which season is either just beginning or growing.
  • Harvest for peaches and nectarines in Spain will start soon with doubts on labour availability
  • Keeping a safe distance in the fields is easier than in the packhouses and grading lines, so absenteeism will be felt first in this processing/ logistical sector.
  • Processing industry already reports absenteeism of 10%.

Imports

  • Still enough fruits and vegetables in shops and supermarkets in norther EU, but one can expect increased difficulties and price increases.
  • Transport is becoming more difficult and more expensive. Until now, trucks from Spain or Italy were moving with two drivers taking turns. This is no longer feasible, and many transporters have to pay extra insurance premiums for their drivers.
  • Air transport is also becoming more difficult with the fall of passenger flights affecting cargo on board such as figs, lychees, passion fruit. Cargo planes still fly but need to be filled – hence volume, time and costs considerations.
  • Sea transport is not a problem yet and a lot of incoming fruit has in fact been ordered months ago. But this could change in coming weeks as more countries adopt restrictions. The measures adopted already in South Africa and India will affect the availability of grapes in the coming months.
  • Spillover effects are to be expected, affecting smaller farmers all around the world.
  • For instance, South Africa is a hub for produce from Zimbabwe and Zambia.

International Trade

Export certificates -EU Commission request reciprocity for online transmission flexibility for EU exports:

  • Last week. the European Commission sent a letter to all trading partners to inform them that electronic export certificates and scanned copies would be accepted for imports into the European Union, waiving the requirement to present original paper certificates as a temporary working solution in the context of COVID-19.
  • This week. DG SANTE has sent a further communication asking third countries for reciprocal measures in their treatment of EU exports of animals, plants and their products, as these have likewise experienced difficulties in presenting original paper certificates issued by EU competent authorities to border inspection posts.
  • In the Communication, the Commission asked third countries to ensure that consignments originating in the EU will be accepted on the basis of scanned copies of the original paper certificates whenever it is not possible to present the original paper certificate and provided that the original form follows at a later stage. If a country is a user of the TRACES platform, the scanned copies could be replaced by the EU harmonized export certificates issued and transmitted through TRACES.
  • The Commission also asked third countries’ authorities to inform all EU Member States, EU Delegations and the European Commission of the steps that exporters need to take in order to benefit from such a trade facilitating measure with regard to certification.

Other developments in international partners – India:

On 24 March, India announced a general lockdown due to the coronavirus emergency. This lockdown has so far impeded the movement of goods (both import and export), which have remained blocked due to the halt in port and wholesale activities since the adoption of the measure.

Fruitnet (see article HERE) informed that the lockdown is not supposed to affect trade of fresh produce, as ‘fresh produce personnel are classed as essential workers and exempt from India's lockdown’. However, ports and wholesale markets across India are reported to remain closed, due to a delay in the provision of written permits for relevant workers, which would allow them to leave home and continue operations. The difficulty seems to be the individual implementation of the measure by various Indian states.

Market situation

  • Many wholesale markets in EU working at much reduced capacity or shut
  • HoReCa (hotels, restaurants and caterings, cafés, canteens) industry shut down with mostly supermarkets remaining as product outlet
  • Consumers mostly panic, and bulk buy long shelf-life food stuffs – perishable produce overflow
  • Importers set supply programs months in advance with their suppliers. Sea freight products arriving in the EU now, were bought 5-6 weeks ago before the COVID-19 situation

Effects

  • A lot of importers had already purchased product without foresight of what would happen to HoReCa and wholesale. Result: large overstock of product (mangoes, pineapples, grapes).
  • Reduced or no outlets for class 2 product which HoReCa and wholesale would normally absorb.
  • Supply order and season program cancellations. Food loss prior to shipment.
  • Monetary - Product being sold at below market price (competitiveness) with suppliers threatened to lose money)
  • Payments mostly on 30-days payment terms - companies serving HORECA and Wholesale are defaulting and going bankrupt

Example - Spain

  • Corona cases increase - farms no longer harvesting/ packing at normal rates – and even shut downs in vulnerable areas
  • Steep increase in transport prices to mainland EU to buffer drivers’ risk insurance premiums
  • Spanish produce becoming scarce and more expensive.