Europe has been easing restrictions as it opens up the economy following months of lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. In most European countries, open markets, restaurants and bars are now allowed to operate. Also, during the first weeks of June will be allowed free movement of people between regions and inter-European countries.
The restrictions in travel continue to affect the agricultural industry in the availability of the workforce. For instance, it is estimated only about a third of workers from eastern European countries who would normally travel to the UK to harvest vegetable crops and pick fruit have arrived, and only small numbers are likely to continue to travel. Some countries have considered immigration bills for facilitating the movement of workers for the agriculture sector (The Guardian, 18 of May).
The European Union (EU) is negotiating with the World Health Organisation (WHO) about the maximum level of chlorates in drinking water. The EU recently proposed setting this level at 0.25 mg/L, even though the WHO suggested a much higher maximum level of 0.7 mg/. For importers dealing with frozen berries, frozen vegetables and dried fruit chlorates might be a concern (CBI, 29 of May).
COLEACP reported that the majority of exotic fruit products, including mango, have returned to sustained consumption rates in Europe. Commodafrica (Commodafrica, 19 of May).
Most European countries have announced or already started to ease their lockdown restrictions. Spain and Italy have restarted some industries and allowed people mobility, and Germany is considering opening schools; its shops and restaurants are allowed to re-open if social distancing measures are observed. In France, the lockdown restrictions have been extended up to 11 May. Several other European countries, including Austria, Denmark and the Czech Republic, are also set to loosen their lockdowns (FPC).
In Spain and Italy, open markets of fruit and vegetables are allowed to operate.
An overview of the global avocado market indicates that despite restrictions on movement and lockdowns, demand for avocados has not dropped. In the Netherlands, the coronavirus crisis seems to be driving up demand for avocados, together with citrus and summer fruits. In Belgium prices are currently at a normal level for the time of year. However, the market in Germany is quiet, and there are concerns about the supply to French supermarkets due to logistical problems. In Spain, high demand will cause the season to end early. And a major wholesaler in Northern Italy says that demand remains stable despite the coronavirus. (Fresh Plaza)
Prices in some crops, such as berries, have collapsed in Europe, as these products are now considered non-essential in the main. But demand for vegetables from EU and UK has increased, with good prices, in some cases increased prices due to shortages (Coleacp).
In Europe, countries like Germany, UK, Netherlands and France, rely on imported labour during the summer period. Due to the COVID-19 situation, is expected this shortage will be stronger. Some countries are planning to bring workers from countries such as Rumania.
European supermarkets have revised their orders to the exporters for the period May-September, which is normally the “low season”, as to have higher produce available.
The Waitrose & Partners Foundation has unlocked £200,000 from its Global Fund to protect farming communities adversely affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic. A big part of the fund will go to support Waitrose’s suppliers in Kenya (Farm Africa).
As oppositely to other tropical crops, the 2019/20 season has become the record season for shipments of fresh mangoes.
Germany is expecting to have a shortage in salad and another daily- consumed vegetables, where the country relies on imports. It is expected prices to increase.
The Netherlands is planning to get back to normal by the 5th of May, for which is expected this will help to normalize trade on that end, and hope of stabilization of the flower market.
The European commission keeps having discussions on how to facilitate and to maintain an unobstructed flow of goods and to secure supply chains. Aspects such as the reintroduction of internal border controls and more flexibility in the application on airlines’ use of slots to facilitate cargo operations (Coleacp).
In Europe, precautions continue in almost all countries: working from home as much as possible and warehouses not working at full capacity because of the space that must be kept between the employees. The growers and traders are also concerned about a shortage of labour, especially truck drivers.
The food trade is exempt from many special measures, and efforts are made to minimize any impact on the food supply chain, as the priority is being given to keep food retail outlets open and well-stocked.
In most European countries the demand is focused on the retail, although in some countries, this boom is already levelling off, now that people have already stocked up.
The demand for citrus fruits is increasing due to their vitamin C content.
Huge increase in supermarket turnover, while catering suppliers see turnover evaporate.
Crops such as avocados, mangoes, berries and other tropical fruits have decreased demand. These “luxury” fruits are often part of the menus at restaurants and eat-outs many of which have been shut for business or are operating lean businesses at the moment.
There is volatility in prices, especially from imported products from overseas, such as melons and mangoes, which prices have increased due to logistical issues, notably air freight.
Some by-country considerations
Belgium: the consequences for imports are still not too bad, the supply from overseas products will continue for the time being, but this can change quickly as logistics are uncertain.
United Kingdom: the demand for fruit and vegetables is shifting from the food service to the supermarkets and hospitals. People keep to stockpiling and the fruit and vegetable shelves in supermarkets are often empty. The supply from overseas products will continue for the time being, but this can change quickly as logistics are uncertain. UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced new flexibility on import certifications as to ease trade flows.
Germany: still there is no lack in the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables. There is concern around shortages on work-force, especially from truck drivers.
United Arab Emirates
Dubai is reducing its import customs duties by 20% as a response to the coronavirus crisis and it will be valid for the next three months.