Fresh Produce

We have to start by mentioning Brexit: This will be an unprecedented time in terms of availability and pricing. We are working with our suppliers to minimize impact for customers and offer alternatives, with any potential shortages and major price increases.   There are pricing tariffs which can affect different products, administrative regulations and additional border checks and inspections.  For more information, please see idc’s Brexit guidance document.

Its also worth mentioning the Closure of the French borders could cause impact now and the near future. Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability, speaking on 22 December has stated the below:

“There is a problem potentially directly after Christmas and that is really in fresh produce, so we’re talking here about things like salad, vegetables, fresh fruit, of which the vast majority come from Europe at this time.

The problem actually is empty lorries, so the empty lorries which are now stuck in Kent, they need to get back to places like Spain to pick up the [next] consignment of raspberries and strawberries and they need to get back within the next day or so otherwise we will see disruption.

As long as it can be cleared today there’ll be minimal impact for consumers.”

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability

Potatoes

Moving closer to Christmas has brought some demand to packing markets. Contracted material forms the lion’s share of movement for supply though. As such, contracted material has been moving well to packing markets, with purchasers stocking up for Christmas. This weekend and early into next week could see further rises in demand, with most consumers starting to purchase vegetables and other perishables for Christmas dinner.

With London now placed under tier 4 restrictions, some wholesale demand into the capital has fallen, with hospitality trade using up stock ahead of closures. An increase in processing supplies moving to export markets, especially Ireland, is noted this week (see export prices).

Now that harvest is over, prices have seen slight support from the removal of ‘freshly lifted’ supplies that were moving straight to markets. Domestic requirements are generally covered by contracts though, with a reduction in foodservice demand due to varying levels of restrictions across the country.

Pricing remains static as there is good supply for potatoes but demand is restricted due to more restrictive region tiers. This week’s announcement of more regions moving into tier 3&4 could impact any wholesale demand in those regions too from this weekend.

potato table

Spain is responsible for supplying around a quarter of the UK’s fresh produce imports, as well as 32 per cent of all the vegetables and 20 per cent of all the fruit sold in the country.

UK produce may be under more pressure depending on Brexit news. Spain currently supplies the majority of the salads and brassicas into the UK over the Winter period.

Brassicas

Typically, the brassicas increase in price from Spain over the Winter which will be reflected, further tariffs may change this again.

Soft Fruit

Strawberries remain higher priced than the UK season, We have Egyptian available, large bold fruit but not the best tasting at this time of year

Raspberries will be increasing in price from Spain, quality and eating quality will be good.

Blueberries will be Mexican, Peruvian, and Chilean available keep prices stable.  The best shelf life among the soft fruits.

Stone Fruit

South African plums are available and eat well, prices remain higher than expected from Southern Hemisphere imports.

Peach nectarine and Apricots are available but not for long enjoy them while you can.  The supply dries up shortly into the new year, awaiting new season Chilean which are for cooking use only.

brocolli

Top Fruit

As mentioned, all apples are now being cold stored and we will start to see prices rising.

The French apple harvest is estimated at 1.4 million tons this year. It is therefore a small but good quality harvest, with nice calibres, firmness, and colouring. The harvested volumes are moderate due to the rotation phenomenon and poor flowering.

Regarding the classic varieties, many of which are exported, there is a 19% decline this year in terms of volume compared to 2019. This deficit is a little more marked for the Golden, Granny, Fuji, Braeburn and Jonagold varieties.

As for the club varieties, we observe a 5% decline compared to last year, with yields per hectare which are limited but balanced by an increase in the surface area of the orchards.

garlic ginger

Garlic

Prices are rising. The reason: the widening coronavirus outbreak is causing disruptions in the supply chain in China, the world’s largest producer of the vegetable.

In recent years, China has been responsible for as much as 80% of the global garlic supply. More than two-thirds of the fresh garlic that the U.S. imports comes from China, according to the United Nations’ Comtrade database.

U.S. retail prices of garlic are now at their highest levels since 2018, driven by concerns that supplies could run short in the coming months. A sleeve of garlic—which typically contains five bulbs—cost an average of $1.425 in stores during the first two weeks of February, up 29% from a year earlier, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  Garlic production in China has slowed since authorities sounded alarms over the spread of a new pneumonia-causing virus just before the start of the Lunar New Year holiday in late January.

Ginger

Prices remain high. The domestic market price of Chinese ginger is already quite high. However, changes in market demand suggest that there is still room for the price to rise even further. The price of top-quality ginger is expected to break the record of 6 yuan [0.84 USD] per 0.5 kg. Farmers who can capitalize on this development and sell their ginger on time stand to profit a lot.

The variety of processed ginger products is growing rapidly. This includes dried ginger, ginger slices, and pickled ginger, as well as ginger powder. There is a lot of choice in the ginger market. And as the demand for fresh ginger is growing, the price naturally goes up.

In addition, the overall production volume of fresh ginger is not that large this year. Some of the production areas suffered from natural disasters and their production volume declined. This stimulates the price of top-quality ginger. The price of fresh ginger is not likely to show a significant downward trend this year. On the contrary, the price is likely to rise even further in the short term.

Asparagus

Prices are rising with volumes lower than the past several seasons. Supplies are available from Peru and Mexico, and growers report high quality.

Due to low volumes in the last week, we have noticed in the last few weeks prices have considerably increased to $25 for Mexico and $22 for Peru for Asparagus Green size Large, said David Wilson Villasenor, vice president of sales to shippers and growers for Agtools Inc.

Buyer's Choice

Supporting British – grower Chris from Molyneux Kale Lancashire

Red kale – is a low-calorie, low-carb, low-fat food that also supplies protein. An 85-gram serving, or about 3 ounces, has 45 calories. Of the 9 grams of carbohydrates in a serving, 2 grams are from dietary fibre, which improves digestive health and keeps you feeling full longer

This is a variant of green kale, the only difference is the colour. Useful for adding colour to your plate.

red kale

Meat

Although the government says it still wants to sign a trade agreement with the EU, this is looking increasingly unlikely. If no deal is agreed in the coming days, Boris Johnson says the UK will walk away.

It is entirely possible that negotiations will not succeed and that if a deal is not agreed, the UK will leave the EU “on Australia terms”. Tariffs in both directions would be prohibitive in the event of no deal, and it is crystal clear that the food industry needs a deal owing to the importance of two-way trade to our industry, particularly that with our neighbouring countries in the EU. Walk into any British supermarket and you will be surrounded by European products. Around 30% of all food consumed in the UK is imported from the EU.

In the event of a no deal Brexit, the UK would at this stage be obliged, under the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, to impose on average tariffs of 22%. Inspections at ports will lead to delays and the potential for the shortening of shelf-life on products.

A leaked government letter revealed the government’s worst case scenario predicting there could be tail backs of up to 7,000 lorries in Kent awaiting vehicle check before being allowed to cross the channel. Between 30% and 50% of trucks crossing the Channel will not be ready and lack of capacity to hold trucks at French Ports could reduce the flow of traffic to 60-80% of normal levels.

With a no deal Brexit we can expect price increases across the board with UK product going up in price as demand will outstrip supply. With very little or no time to prepare on a worst-case Brexit, fixed pricing will be virtually impossible to achieve, with weekly pricing being more achievable.

Poultry

Chicken remains relatively unchanged, slight movements up on Turkey over the last few weeks which is to be expected with the run up to Christmas.

chicken

Pork

Little movement on Pork prices over the last few weeks. Estimated slaughter was slightly lower than in the previous week (-2,500 head), at 185,300 head. Slaughter levels remain low for the time of year, about 5% below the 5-year average, and are well below the equivalent week in 2019 (-14,600 head). Concerns over the backlog of pigs persist, particularly as we move into two short kill weeks over the festive period.

Carcase weights dropped back on the week, averaging at 87.88kg, 380g less than the previous week. Nevertheless, carcase weights are still almost 4kg heavier than in the same week last year.

During October, the UK recorded a reduction in pig meat imports from all the major suppliers compared to October 2019. This follows the wider trend of the year to date, which shows reduced volumes of pig meat being imported. Import volumes of all pig meat products during the month were lower than last year.

The value of pig meat (inc offal) imports fell in-line with the drop in volume during October, falling by 18% to total £194 million. Total pig meat imports for the first 10 months of 2020 were valued at £2 billion, a decrease of 4% on the previous year.

When offal is included, UK pig meat exports were still slightly higher year-on-year for October. Offal exports were nearly 50% higher than October last year, at 10,800 tonnes. This was also 13% higher than October 2018.

Shipments to China and Hong Kong drove the overall increase. Conversely, exports of fresh/frozen primary pork were 9% lower than last year at 23,000 tonnes. Although exports to China were still 17% higher than last year, volumes to most other destinations declined.

Nonetheless, despite not reaching the highs of last year, average export prices across pig meat and offal products during October were still the highest since March.

uk pig meat trade

Beef

Although prices fell back slightly on the week, the measure is still nearly 40p above the price achieved for the same week last year, and 22p above the 5-year average.
Estimated slaughter for the week totalled 35,100 head, up on the previous week by a marginal 700 head (2%). Estimated throughput was almost 6% higher than that seen in the same week last year

UK beef exports were valued at £41 million for the month of October, this was down by £18 million (30%) compared to the same month last year. For the year to October, exports were valued at £423 million, a decrease of 13% on the previous year. This reduction in values is fairly in line with the lower volumes being exported.

Looking at volumes, the UK exported less to most major destinations. Based on the first ten months of trade the UK has exported 19,000 tonnes (15%) less beef to the EU, totalling 107,000 tonnes. Fresh/chilled beef has seen the largest fall, with a 23% reduction in export volumes year-on-year.

Beef imports for the year to date (first ten months) were down 16,000 tonnes compared to the previous year. The only major supplier to buck this trend was Brazil, which increased export volumes to the UK by 2,200 tonnes (12%) year-on-year.

In more recent weeks, there has been some speculation in the industry that more beef is currently being imported from Ireland in the run up to the EU-Exit deadline of January 2021, in order to avoid potential tariffs and delays. We will have to wait and see if this view is supported by the data when trade data for November and December becomes available in the New Year.

Despite this decrease in trade, domestic beef prices have remained relatively high during the past few months compared to recent years.

For the month of October, beef exports were down 31% and imports were down 8%. This now puts beef exports and imports down 10% and 6% respectively based on the first ten months of trade of 2020.

meat 2

Lamb

Lamb pricing has remained firm with liveweight lambs 17p/kg ahead of the price for the same week last year estimated throughput at British markets totalled 153,300 head up 4% on the week

On the deadweight front, the average GB NSL SQQ price rose, the measure is still over 50p above the price for the same week last year.

Estimated slaughter at British abattoirs totalled 300,300 head, 12% higher on the week but 4% lower than a year ago

UK exports of sheep meat (fresh/frozen) fell 13% in October. Imports increased by 9% compared to the same month last year. In the year to October, export volumes fell by 9%, while imports for the year to date are now down on the year by 6%.

According to the latest HMRC data, UK exports of sheep meat (fresh/frozen) fell 13% year on year in October to 7,700 tonnes. Exports to both France and Germany declined, falling by 16% and 8% respectively, while shipments to Ireland grew by 24% on the year. Despite this, exports to Ireland for the year to date remain comparable to those seen in 2019, due to a decline in shipments seen earlier in the year.

France – the key market for UK sheep meat – entered a second lockdown at the end of October, and bars and restaurants there may remain closed until late January. This would limit demand for UK export volumes. So, it may be that opportunities to export early, and pre-empt possible tariffs should no trade deal be reached, could be limited. Estimated GB slaughter in the first two weeks of December are lower year on year.

In the year to October, export volumes fell by 9% (7,100 tonnes) when compared to the same period last year, totalling 70,500 tonnes. Despite this, it seems higher domestic farm gate prices have continued to support the value of these exports. As such, the value of exports for the year to October rose by 9% compared to the same period last year to £351 million.

UK imports of sheep meat totalled 3,500 tonnes in October, increasing by 9% (280 tonnes) compared to the same month last year. Much of this increase came from shipments from New Zealand, increasing by a notable 42% to 1,800 tonnes. This is likely due to a strong price margin over domestic prices. Meanwhile, volumes from both Australia (-12%) and Ireland (-23%) fell on the year.

Despite the growth in October, total imports for the year to date (Jan-Oct) were down on the year by 6% at 49,100 tonnes. Most of this decline can be attributed to falling imports from Ireland, down 3,000 tonnes in the year-to-date.

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