Market Report – December 2021

Each month at idc we provide expert information on each food sector from across the United Kingdom, Europe, and the Global markets. We aim to provide advice for owners and chefs on market movements, product changes, and seasonal trends to enable you to make informed choices regarding your menu and budgetary requirements.

The problems of import and export, staffing and transportation are still affecting prices. Where we mention prices are good or holding steady, this is often likely to mean they are much higher than this period in other years. However, there is still some great value and quality to be found in the market, so read on…

Fresh Produce Sector Market Report

Potatoes

Washed whites have started to increase in demand as the markets are picking up.

Chipping potato yields are slightly down but still readily available. The farmers have harvested all the crops and they are cold storing for the next 7 to 8 months. The French potato crop has been down a little, so they are looking to buy from the UK market, this may push prices up in the UK markets over the coming months.

Salad potatoes/mids and bakers remain steady and have good availability.

idc Potatoes

Root Vegetables & Brassicas

UK broccoli will be coming to an end in the next few weeks and Spanish has already started to be imported. The Main volumes will start to come through over the next few weeks.

UK cauliflower remains readily available, and prices remain steady, Spanish cauliflower will also start to come through more and more now. A milder, dryer winter will keep availability good and prices steady.

Seasonal items We also see a huge increase on parsnips, carrots, potatoes, and sprouts for all the Christmas meals, which we hope to be able to share with larger families this year. It is also worth mentioning that a few other seasonal items such as fresh cranberries and chestnuts and the January king cabbage are also available.

idc Green Broccoli

Berries

While we currently rely on the Dutch and Belgian strawberry supply, we will soon be moving over to the typically larger Egyptian fruit.

Raspberry and blueberry will remain good quality whilst blackberry quality may suffer due to the fruit, which comes from Mexico, tending to have softer red cell fruit, which reduces its shelf life, so one to watch. The US is having a lot more imported blackberry as it is cheaper to export from Mexico so prices will be sharp on blackberry for the UK and European markets.

idc Strawberries

Stone Fruit

Italian Angelino plums are coming to an end, while we wait for the South African fruit to arrive along with the Peach, Nectarine and Apricot. South African stone fruit growers experienced a good winter and a very mild to cool spring thus far, with new orchards coming into production, which is good news for supply.

idc Nectarine

Citrus Fruit

“The start of this citrus season has been marked by historically low demand”

The Spanish citrus season, which kicked off in September with the first extra-early mandarins, is currently underway with more consistent quantities, although with lower volumes compared to this same time in the previous season.

Although clementine sales are taking off slightly, there is still a concern in this area with higher production and handling costs the biggest worry.

We are waiting on the first frosts from Italy for the Blood oranges to be ready, see the buyer choice for a little more information.

Seville oranges will also be available at the end of December/beginning of January for homemade Marmalade making. It’s only a short season up to 4 weeks, so jump on it quickly.

Top Fruit

All the fresh apple varieties are now available with Pink Lady added to the list. There are also other European apples available from Serbia, Spain and Italy which can only help the marketplace prices. All are of excellent quality.

Pears have remained higher than previous years as was previously reported due to the lower yield across Europe.

IDC Red Apples

Salads

We are now working with Italian, French and Spanish imported leaves. Prices remain higher than last year due to the increase in production, labour and fuel costs. Quality remains excellent.

Dairy Sector Market Report

Dairy

The UK dairy industry has faced rapid change through 2021 as it adjusts to a new trade relationship with the EU and the impacts of the pandemic on consumption patterns.

Rising costs have also been a key feature of the year, with higher feed costs impacting milk production and more recent spikes in energy costs influencing the whole supply chain. Weighing on production levels in the UK, are rising costs of the ‘big three’ – feed, fertiliser and fuel.

Farmgate milk prices will continue to rise given the pressures on margins through the supply chain.

Cream

Prices have seen a surge in the second half of the year with more on the way. Availability is also tight, as milk production is subdued, and the beginning of the potting season is keeping volumes off the market.

Butter

Prices also moved up on the back of rising cream prices and firm demand. However, butter prices do not offer a return on cream prices, keeping churns inactive and supplies tight. Although there is not a clear view on stock levels, sellers are reported to be hesitant to sell off stocks due to concerns around milk production through the winter.

Cheese

The market for mild cheddar has finally seen some sizable movement after holding relatively stable for the past couple of years.

The shortage of milk, and milk fats, has seen curd prices rise and generated increased activity in cheese markets. With retail demand remaining strong, cheese supplies in both the UK and EU are tight.

Adding to the mix is a view that milk deliveries will remain short for some time, which has shifted sentiment in the market and kick-started some additional buying activity.

Buyers Choice: Blood Orange

Why is the flesh red?

Blood oranges may have originated in the southern Mediterranean, where they have been grown since the 18th century. They are a common orange grown in Italy. The anthocyanins – which give the orange its distinct maroon colour – will only develop when temperatures are low at night, as during the Mediterranean fall and winter. Blood oranges cultivated in the United States are in season from December to March (Texas), and from November to May (California).

The blood orange is a natural mutation of the orange, which is itself a hybrid, probably between the pomelo and the tangerine. Within Europe, the L’Arancia Rossa di Sicilia (red orange of Sicily) has Protected Geographical Status. In the Valencian Community, it was introduced in the second half of the 19th century.

sliced red blood orange fruit

Types of Blood Orange: Moro

The most colourful of the blood oranges, with a deep red flesh and a rind with a bright red blush. The flavour is stronger, and the aroma is more intense than a normal orange.

This fruit has a distinct, sweet flavour with a hint of raspberry. This orange possesses a more bitter taste than the Tarocco or the Sanguinello. The Moro is a ‘deep blood orange’, meaning that the flesh ranges from orange-veined with ruby colouration, to vermilion, to vivid crimson, to nearly black.

Types of Blood Orange: Tarocco

The name is thought to be derived from an exclamation of wonder expressed by the farmer who was shown this fruit by its discoverer. It is a medium-sized fruit and is perhaps the sweetest and most flavourful of the three types. The most popular table orange in Italy is thought to have derived from a mutation of the Sanguinello.

It is referred to as “half-blood” because the flesh is not accentuated in red pigmentation as much as with the Moro and Sanguinello varieties. It has thin orange skin, slightly blushed in red tones.

Tarocco is one of the world’s most popular oranges because of its sweetness and juiciness. It has the highest vitamin C content of any orange variety grown in the world, mainly on account of the fertile soil surrounding Mount Etna, and it is easy to peel. The ‘Tarocco’ orange is seedless.

Types of Blood Orange: Sanguinello

The Sanguinello, also called ‘Sanguinelli’ in the US (the plural form of its name in Italian), discovered in Spain in 1929, has reddish skin, few seeds, and sweet and tender flesh.

Sanguinello, the Sicilian late ‘full-blood’ orange, is close in characteristics to the Moro.

Where grown in the Northern Hemisphere, it matures in February but can remain on trees unharvested until April. Fruit can last until the end of May. The peel is compact and clear yellow with a red tinge. The flesh is orange with multiple blood-coloured streaks.

Fish Sector Market Report

Supply Lines

There is still a huge amount of uncertainty over supply lines, with shipment delays, fuel prices increasing and container prices at historic highs. The cost of packaging is increasing. UK transport rates are also increasing at the beginning of December.

Fish prices continue to spiral upwards which we know is causing a huge amount of pain. Sadly, with what seems to be a global labour shortage on the back of the pandemic, the cost of processing and delivering fish and seafood is escalating.

The winter sees a good variety of wild fish at prime quality as the colder waters favour a number of species. However, changeable weather, increased demand for less fishing over the holiday season typically creates higher prices and shortages.

Species Ratings

The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) ratings have recently been updated. Unfortunately, for those of you with strict guidelines over using 1-3 rated species only, a review will be necessary. Canadian and USA lobsters have moved from unrated to red – “avoid” (5). All native (UK) squid is now red rated. The majority of sources of monkfish have been downgraded to a 4, including all Scottish sources. Very sadly, UK caught coley has been downgraded from a 2 to a 4. Those of you who read this report regularly will know that we champion coley as a low cost and sustainable alternative. We hope to make Icelandic coley (which remains rated 1) more regularly available. Watch this space!

Cod & Haddock

The cod and haddock quota was cut this year and many Scottish boats are nearing the end of their quota. UK boats still don’t have access to the Norway sector for cod, haddock, hake, pollock and coley, although the Norway boats don’t have access to our sector for pelagic species.

Salmon

Salmon has been increasing in price in recent weeks. Despite a recent levelling strong demand through Christmas will probably see prices rise well into 2022. Additionally, the cool weather means fish require less feed, are less susceptible to disease and farmers can slaughter fewer. Many have already harvested their “target”. Both Loch Duart and the majority of Scottish fish farmers lost significant amounts of stock due to warmer water temperatures over the recent months. This further reduces volume and increases prices.

Frozen Lines

All the major processors, including China and Vietnam, are still struggling with production speed versus demand. Ports are still congested and we are paying a lot in demurrage (a charge imposed by a shipping line on uncleared containers). Additionally, there is still power rationing in China which further slows production.

Meat Sector Market Report

Beef

In addition to workforce and supply issues, transportation costs rising is having a continued influence on goods entering the UK.

With prices in Europe marching upwards, low numbers and demand being strong have increased the price points in the UK for imported product, The monthly pricing has eroded with plants now giving weekly prices at best.

Slaughter for the year to the end of October was down 4.4% on the same period in 2020. Demand is outstripping supply for certain products with the lack of trained staff at abattoirs and cutting plants to do the work, there are not enough butchers/slaughter men to process the required cattle to meet the current demand this will be the case on all species.

UK Prime Cattle Slaughter

Lamb

This week we have seen auction market throughputs pick up with 134,000 head coming forwards, a week-on-week rise of 28%. Reports indicate that more would have been purchased if they’d been available. This pick up is still a drop in the ocean compared to the lower kill levels recorded in recent months. Prices in France are strong and rising too, exceeding £6.50/kg in the week ending 1 November.

Estimated kill for the week recorded a decline of 15%, to 221,000 head.

In October lamb kill totalled 1,107,000 head, down 11% on the year and 12% on the 5-year average. October is usually the peak month for lamb kill.

Adult sheep kill has also once again recorded a large year-on-year decrease, to stand at 100,400 head. Recorded ewe slaughter was 29% below the 5-year average for the month.

For the year to October, production totals 214,600 tonnes, 11% below year-earlier levels. Lamb prices continue to rise due to the lack of UK numbers and lack of imports from New Zealand & Australia.

Prices for imported lamb is at an all-time high with various products unavailable in any volume. A challenging shipping market is removing the potential for New Zealand to send large volumes into Europe.

Poultry

UK chicken market is still experiencing some issues with shortages on certain products due to labour issues. Prices remain firm.

European chicken has been stable for a while with good availability and again prices remain firm.

UK turkey will be tight on supply due to lack of numbers, European product should be able to fill any gaps.

Pork

Supplies of live pigs continue to exceed available processing capacity, and the backlog on farms remains. The low prices paid for some batches of pigs destined for markets requiring minimal butchery have likely weighed on the overall average of prices recently.

Whole pig prices have been rising and falling over recent weeks, the volatile pattern reflects changes in the number of low-priced pigs intended for export with minimal butchery in the sample each week.

Carcase weights remain high and averaged 91.76kg during the week, more than 4kg higher than a year earlier. Slaughtering all the market-ready pigs remains a challenge, and provisional estimates for slaughter in recent weeks suggest that the number being processed is not improving. In the latest week, the estimated slaughter was just 166,000 head, well below typical levels for the time of year.

idc Pork Loin Sliced

Bird Flu Warning

An Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) has been in place across Great Britain since 3 November, (in Northern Ireland from 17 November) after the discovery of a strain of the virus in a small poultry unit in Warwickshire.

It has also been detected at sites in North Yorkshire and Essex.

The AIPZ means bird keepers need to follow strict biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks.

H5N1 is primarily a disease of birds and the risk to the general public’s health is very low, however, a large outbreak can significantly affect commercial poultry prices.

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