It has been a bizarre couple of weeks in the fresh produce industry, there have been big changes in the supply chain as people have been forced to change their entire way of life.
“Since pubs and restaurants were advised to close last week, the supply chain has experienced a massive shift, it seems like consumption is huge but our volumes are the same, we are just selling through different channels,” explains Jack Hanson from Fountain Fresh.
The major food service companies are out at the moment and the places where people would normally eat, the canteens, the school canteens and restaurants are all closed.
“The wholesale markets have certainly been picking up as people start buying from local greengrocers and farm shops. There are 10 million people in London who are now cooking at home, farm shops have seen a huge increase in orders, one of our customers normally orders two pallets from us, they have just asked for twenty. There has been a degree of panic buying of fresh produce but that has mainly been in potatoes and onions.”
Fountain Fresh also has L&H Fruits a local wholesale fruit service which also supplies some food service which will be starting home deliveries from Wednesday. “There is a big demand for it, and I think there will for be for some time as a shut down has just been ordered.”
“The main challenge is in Spain where they are on lock down and struggling massively on labour. One of our suppliers only has 50% of the labour they would normally have, transport costs have gone through the roof and the exchange rate has collapsed, all these things have pushed values on certain products to almost three times the normal price. We are not struggling to buy produce we are just paying more for it. Even cauliflower which is coming from Lincolnshire just now is extremely expensive because demand is huge and they are also struggling with labour.
“But it has been an inspiring week in the fresh produce industry, after an initial two days of despair thinking it was over, people dug in and are busy again. Everybody I’ve seen who are now doing hampers is so busy they can’t take on any more customers after two days. I think retailers will struggle to win back the trade they have lost when this is all over, there was already a drive towards buying local and as people get used to getting deliveries of fresh produce they will see that it is fresher that what they were used to from the retailers, the supply chain is much shorter and much less handling of the product goes on. Food prices are higher at the moment and hampers are expensive but when it settles down prices will be on par to the retailers.” – freshplaza.com