Fresh Produce

Each month at idc we aim to provide information on the Fresh Produce sector across the United Kingdom, Europe, and the world; we can advise and guide you, and your chefs of the market changes, product changes and seasonal trends to ensure you are able to make an informed choice in line with your menus and budgetary requirements.

As part of the first step of the plan for easing lockdown in England we can look positively ahead to April 12th when we should see outdoor hospitality open and May 17th for indoor hospitality. BBC news has reported many pubs have sold out on bookings for that weekend.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality said: “Our members that can open outdoor areas have reported strong interest from customers, which is not surprising after such a long period of closure,”

Potatoes

  • Jersey Royals are available for just a short season each year, but it takes a whole 12 months of care and dedication by The Jersey Royal Company to produce these special seasonal potatoes. The earliest outdoor crops are available from Mid-April with peak volumes through May and June. Supply then continues through to the end of July. Prices have started high as expected and usually hold for the first few weeks.
  • Trade has slowly started to pick up, the sunnier weather over the weekend reportedly helping, but still behind usual with some growers reporting ample stocks of potatoes still on the farm.
  • Students returning to schools this week in England has stimulated an element of, albeit limited, demand on the free-buy market.
  • The wider industry highly anticipates the opening of hospitality, while demand remains relatively subdued on free-buy, with the majority fulfilled on contract.

Other Veg

  • April sees the start of the Spanish broad beans and fresh peas. – always good to see something fresh and new on the menu.
  • The first of the early English asparagus will be with us later this month, with the main crop following on around the second or third week of April. We should see prices drop a little as it competes with supply from Mexico.
Asparagus

Salads

  • Peppers have increased as the high-quality Dutch is demanding higher prices.

Stonefruit

  • April also sees the start of the Spanish stone fruit season – peach/ nectarine/plum/ and cherry/apricot, the latter two start a little later than the rest.

Root Vegetables & Brassica

  • UK savoy is very limited, and prices have risen as we start to use both Portuguese and French.
  • Leeks continue to rise in price as we rely on Europe, with very limited UK supply due to the heavy rainfall.
  • Broccoli and cauliflower are in good supply and prices remain reasonably steady.
  • We will be looking at moving to strawed carrot over the next few weeks and can be expected prices to rise. Strawed carrots are sown in April to early June and are harvested from December through late May. Straw is applied by machine from October until December to protect the carrots from the winter weather and keep them dark as they attempt to grow in the spring.

Fruit

  • Yorkshire forced rhubarb will be coming to an end and we move to outdoor rhubarb which is significantly cheaper than the forced.
  • Blood oranges will continue but expect to see supply drying up towards the end of the month.
  • English Bramley will continue to increase in price and French season apple still has good availability. In the next month, we will start to move over the Southern Hemisphere apples were typically prices increase.
  • Easy peelers have shot up in price as the limited volume is leaving Morocco, while we wait for more to be released and the South African seasons to start.
  • Greek kiwi had nudged in price due to the commodity prices at customs.

The price of flour and bread has risen after what could be the worst UK wheat harvest in 40 years, the industry is warning.

Farmers say that the extreme weather over the last year is likely to mean wheat yields are down by up to 40%.

As a result, some millers have already increased the price of flour by 10% And we are likely to see more of the same weather in future, experts say.

The UK Met Office told BBC News that the extremes of wet and hot conditions that have marked the previous year are likely to become more common as our climate continues to change.

A spokesperson for the Met Office explained: “UK climate projections show a trend towards hotter and drier summers and warmer, wetter winters.”

Since 85% of the wheat used for flour is grown here in the UK, flour millers will have to make up the shortages caused by this year’s dire harvest with imports.

Because the price of wheat has been increasing steadily since the summer of last year, the price of flour has risen.

Buyer’s Choice - Jersey Royals

The Jersey Royal is the marketing name of a type of potato grown in Jersey which has a Protected Designation of Origin. The potatoes are of the variety known as International Kidney and are typically grown as a new potato.

First early grown for early production in Jersey. Produces yields of uniform long oval tubers. Medium – low dry matter. Firm cooked texture. Market – New season ware. Tubers. Long oval shape with yellow skins. Skin texture tough. Medium – deep eyes.

It has a unique taste that enables it to obtain a market premium over other early potatoes and this is recognised in market reports. It has the property of being able to retain its flavour for several days, although, in common with many other varieties of early potatoes, the skin greens on exposure to sunlight. While the Jersey Royal is carefully handled by packing depots the potato can stand up to some mishandling: an important factor to Island growers where the produce has to be exported by sea to its marketplace. This important attribute was clearly demonstrated to growers many years ago when for a short period other early potatoes were grown. (For many years growers have been banned from exporting in season any potatoes other than Jersey Royal to ensure its unique name is maintained).

Beef

There is a real shortage of top-quality Prime beef available, this is down to Slaughter plants working reduced hours and low kills. The estimated slaughter of prime cattle was 32,500 head in the week , around 1% lower than the week before and 5% lower than the same week last year.

Prime steak meat is in high demand due to a lack of slaughtered prime cattle and no imported alternative; reports of supply side tightness in the market are set to remain while the Retail/Supermarket demand continues to put huge pressure on availability, with prices rising week on week on the selected cuts.

Fresh imported Steak meat is not available other than the European with limited numbers for the foreseeable future, this is down to importers not shipping due to the pandemic and uncertainty in the trade.

As demand improves and places start to come out of lockdown and reopen there is going to be an 8-week period where prices will be set based on demand.

Cattle prices are currently already higher now 43.5 pence per Kg higher than the same period last year and higher than at any time seen in the last 5 years; with the lack of imported beef to offer as an immediate alternative price on finished Cattle is expected to continue to increase.

When restrictions are eased, we expect product to tighten even more and put pressure on pricing.

Cow prices also rose again estimated cow slaughter was 10,400 head, 100 head lower than last week and 700 head lower than a year ago.

A total of 73,300 tonnes of beef and veal was produced in February, lower due to fewer cattle slaughtering’s. Prime cattle slaughter for the month was 1% lower year-on-year at 159,900 head, largely driven by lower steer kill (-2%). Heifer slaughter was also lower in February (-1%), although the young bull kill rose by 3%.

Lamb

Both deadweight and liveweight GB lamb prices moved up again in the latest weeks , continuing the trend seen since the start of the year. The current high prices are reflective of the tight supplies of finished lambs in the UK at present.

Last week the liveweight GB OSL (Old Season lamb) SQQ (Standard Quality Quotation) rose by 13 pence per Kg on the week to average 293.0p/kg. The measure is now 88 pence per Kg above the five-year average.

Estimated throughputs of OSL lambs at British auction marts during the week totalled nearly 106,000 head, 2% (1,800 head) higher on the week but down 5% on the same week a year ago.

Cull ewes averaged £90.04/head, up nearly £6 on the week, with numbers up marginally.

On the deadweight front, the GB OSL SQQ rose by 1.4p averaging 615.3p/kg. The measure is now nearly 162 pence per Kg above the five-year average price.

AHDB Graph

Estimated throughputs at GB abattoirs for the week totalled 192,600 head, up 6% (10,400 head) on the week before but down 5% on a year ago. With prices being at a 5-year high and with seasonal spring lamb and the seasonal Easter and retail trade record pricing is to be expected this year, this being exacerbated with the lack of imports.

When restrictions are eased, we expect product to tighten even more and put more pressure on pricing.

Pork

Pork prices remain stable with slight movements up over the last few weeks.
Estimated slaughter dropped significantly, down 12,000 head (7%) to total 176,100 head, and there were fewer pigs in every weight band, particularly the heaviest; the market is set to tighten over the next few months as farmers and processors try to drive prices upwards.
When restrictions are eased, we expect product to tighten even more further increase pressure on pricing.

Poultry

Poultry products remain firm.
The market has remained relatively stable since the beginning of the year when there was some increases and supply issues on imports with the new regulations for goods coming into the UK from Europe.
However, availability is expected to tighten and prices to rise once restrictions are eased.
Packaging materials have also risen and are set to rise further which will have an impact on all pricing of products.

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