Each month at idc we provide expert information on the Fresh Produce 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.
Believe it or not, it is a year since the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme in the summer of 2020. While the rules have relaxed a little, some challenges remain when it comes to supply lines and logistics.
Food distributors across the UK have seen a turbulent year, facing rising costs in many areas, including driver shortages. This has been exacerbated by increases in agency staff rates and courier costs, steep wage increases across transport and other roles, National Living Wage increases, growing fuel costs, and the price of utilities more than doubling in the past 12 months. Furthermore, additional paperwork requirements for imports as a result of Brexit will be implemented in the autumn, and these are liable to cause further issues in the supply chain.
Many suppliers are facing a crisis within their businesses to not only recruit new staff but also to retain existing staff. This comes at a cost, pay rises have been given without even being requested. This is resulting in higher than average costs than the previous year’s seasons.
Potatoes remain reasonably stable, as the weather isn’t too extreme yet, the only thing to mention is transport situation is affecting costs. They are all coming through in good supply and good quality.
Sprouts will see a return to the marketplace as the early Christmas meals are booked.
English broccoli and cauliflower season has been excellent, and we will see some Spanish arrive over the next few weeks. Romanesco is also available a nice alternative to the usual Cauliflower and Broccoli, have a read on the buyer’s choice!
Early season Spanish Okitsu satsumas have now started, the Spanish clementines will start a little later.
The South African orange season is reaching an end as the Spanish orange starts to come through.
The Spanish primo fiori lemons will also be starting very soon, we will be moving away from Turkish, South African, and Argentinian fruit.
Mid to late November we normally see South African stone fruit such as peaches, nectarines, plums, and a little later apricots.
Italian plums will still be available but keep their hand to mouth as quality and shelf can be reduced. Again, prices will rise and they are typically smaller than the Spanish and Italian fruit.
Spanish melon season has now finished, and we are onto southern hemisphere Brazilian melon. Prices will be increasing due to higher transport costs.
UK berry season is coming to an end apart from a few glasshouse growers. Strawberries will move over to Dutch and Belgian which have limited supply and we will see prices rocket for a good few weeks until the Egyptian supply starts.
The French season is well underway, and the Southern Hemisphere is coming to an end. The quality remains excellent and the later starting varieties like the Braeburn and Red Delicious will be available.
UK lollo rosso, oakleaf and biondi is coming to an end and will be moving over to French imported leaf. The quality will be fantastic but expect prices to nearly double, which is nothing unusual – it happens every year.
Imported herbs and salad leaves have seen a jump in price as packaging and other costs have increased.
The Spanish season for salads is imminently due to start as we move over from the UK and Dutch grown produce.
We have seen quite a few milk price increases announced recently with the dairies we work with, which will be welcome news for many to help counter the relentless rise in farm input costs.
While some of the pressure has come out of the grain markets, prices remain high. On top of that, the issues in the energy sector mean prices for, fuel energy and fertiliser are set to increase, in addition to processor increased costs e.g. packaging including poly bottles, transport labour all look set to increase. What remains to be seen is whether the milk price increases will be sufficient to cover these increased costs.
Romanesco is also known as Romanesco Broccoli, Fractal Broccoli, or Roman Cauliflower. Is it Broccoli or is it cauliflower? Well, it’s a hybrid of both, part of the Brassica genus (cruciferous vegetables), like Brussels Sprouts, Kale and Cabbage.
Romanesco is green, or chartreuse, if you are looking for a more descriptive colour guide. Each spire-like floret looks identical and they get smaller in size towards the stalk. Romanesco is probably most mathematicians’ favourite vegetable as the florets appear in a logarithmic spiral resembling a fractal: a geometric curve with a repetitive pattern. What’s more the number of spirals on one head of Romanesco, it is a Fibonacci number a series of numbers in which each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers e.g. 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8…
Who knew you’d be getting a maths lesson as well as a tasty, healthy vegetable tip?
As with similar brassicas you are looking for a bright colour with no spots or discolouration and a firm stem. The head should be dense, and firm, and check that the leaves are not wilted.
In many cases Romanesco can be used as you would Cauliflower or Broccoli, although it has its own distinct nutty flavour. You can combine it with broccoli or cauliflower in any recipe that requires them, but it is a shame not to showcase its amazing shape. A quick splash of cold water after cooking will preserve the colour and form.
It can last a week if refrigerated but it is best to use by day two after delivery. Don’t wash or prepare Romanesco before use, it’s best to prepare directly before cooking to preserve the shape and colour.
Prices have risen over the past 2 months, and there is no sign that they will go the other way any time soon. Simply put, there isn’t a surplus of fish available that we would need to reduce prices. Using the Cornwall area as an example, there are many cash buyers for prime fish such as Turbot, Brill, and Dover Soles who are paying high prices. This keeps the market extremely buoyant.
Pollock is extremely short in fresh & frozen worldwide. Landings have been hugely down. Frozen stocks are hand to mouth and have been for some time.
Cod and Haddock are on the move as we enter into the winter months. This is a seasonal change and is being impacted with the Norwegians starting to fish for frozen at sea around this time of year. October marks the start of the FAS season.
Autumn is typically a good time for wild fish as the waters cool down – improving the quality of White Fish in particular. Most fish are in season during this time so there should be plenty of variety to consider when planning your menus. New Icelandic quotas started on the 1st of September, and this would typically see better availability on both Cod and Haddock (in a normal year!).
Flatfish should be of excellent quality with spawning seasons over.
Squid should start to make a reappearance in our native waters as the temperature drops, but with a warmer September than in recent years, you may need to be patient.
With the monsoon season over, we should see good availability on both Tuna and Swordfish. Native Oysters and Mussels will also be back in season. Whilst the saying dictates you should eat native Oysters in months with an ‘R’ in them, they are actually at their best from October.
We are relying on Icelandic and Scottish fish to fill the void. Smaller Cods and Haddocks are not targeted by Iceland and hence the filleting costs are higher. This together with the shortage of production staff is having a big effect on prices.
Demand for beef is still strong, with higher demand from both retail and catering sector, prices for certain cuts has risen, industry reports suggest that retail is putting other sectors under pressure for certain cuts putting the catering sector under more pressure than it already is.
Beef prices around the world have continued to rise with lower numbers and demand from China and East Asia being the root cause.
There are some difficulties with staff shortages in slaughter and cutting plants as well as the well-documented transport issues, rising labour and fuel costs is also having an impact on pricing not just in the Beef sector but in all sectors.
GB deadweight cattle prices slipped in the week ending 2 October, with declines seen in nearly all categories. The all-prime average price fell by 0.9p on the week to 409.3p/kg. This puts the price 41.8p above the same week a year ago.
Estimated prime cattle slaughter at GB abattoirs was 30,200 head for the week, 5% lower than the week before and 2% lower than the same week a year ago.
Cow prices also experienced a decline, with the overall average slipping 6.2p to 273.2p/kg. Animal’s meeting -O4L spec fell 7.2p to average 294.7p/kg. Despite the price softening, the overall average was still 33.2p above the same week a year ago, and 46.2p above the five-year average.
Prices look likely to remain firm with increases as demand firms up.
Over the past two weeks lamb prices have ticked up and there are tentative signs in auction market throughputs this week that this may have finally pulled some supplies forwards. Through the past few months, auction market throughputs have been significantly below expectations, even if we allowed for a smaller lamb crop. In the week ending 6 October, 115,300 lambs came forwards, up 11% on the previous week and just 3% below year-earlier levels. In recent months, throughputs have been down by as much as a quarter in some weeks.
During the week ended 6 October, the GB liveweight NSL SQQ gained almost 8p, to stand at 235.21p/kg. The quote now stands at 38p above year-earlier levels. In the week ended 2 October, the GB deadweight NSL SQQ increased 8.3p, to 502.3p/kg.
Looking forwards to lamb supply for Christmas, calculations suggest there will be British lambs available for slaughter. However, there is likely to be tightness in the market due to a lack of New Zealand lamb. Usually, New Zealand would expect six or seven ships to dock in New Zealand to deliver lamb to the UK (via Asia) in time for the Christmas chilled market. In 2021, just three ships are expected, including one that will not reach the UK until days before Christmas. This is due to ongoing difficulty in the shipping sector caused by Covid-19.
Estimated slaughter is around 8 million which is 11% down on 2020 numbers, Deadweight lamb prices in Australia and New Zealand are around 30% higher than a year ago and are continuing to rise.
With low UK Numbers and lack of supply from New Zealand and Australia, lamb prices will continue to rise as with the beef sector labour shortages at processors, transport and fuel are having an impact on pricing.
Pork pricing remains relatively unchanged despite some lower market costs, labour shortages are a major concern with pigs backlogged, this is a challenging time for the industry.
Average prices fell last week, the measure was likely influenced by some particularly low prices paid by abattoirs for batches of pigs outside contracts, as the market finds an outlet for some pigs killed with only minimal butchery. This could be the case for several weeks to come, depending on how long there is a backlog of pigs on farms.
Reports suggest that 150,000 pigs are backed up and reports that some farms will have to cull some pigs.
Slaughter at GB abattoirs was estimated to be 194,700 head during the week, 7.5% higher than the week before and 11% above the same week a year ago. This is the third-highest weekly kill of the year. Bear in mind that these are estimates, the accuracy of which can be affected by unusual circumstances.
Carcase weights averaged 90.93 kg, 700 g heavier than even last week and more than 4 kg heavier than the same week in 2020.
The pork sector is having some serious issues, a quote from AHDB “We are working with industry and the Government to address the challenges facing the pork sector.”
Chairman of the AHDB Pork Board, Mike Sheldon, said: “With the unprecedented challenges being placed on the pork sector, AHDB is working with industry and the Government to identify ways in which we can all help levy payers during these difficult times.
“These challenges, in particular a shortage of skilled workers, come on top of pressure on margins largely due to rising feed costs.
“These issues are extremely concerning and therefore require industry-wide action to prevent the situation from deteriorating into an animal welfare issue.
“AHDB is already undertaking work to help the sector, including providing independent evidence to the Government setting out the seriousness of the situation and looking at how together we can support meat processors to ease the supply of labour.
“As well, AHDB’s wider approach has resulted in the AHDB Pork Board agreeing to a one-month levy holiday to help ease the burden of the financial pressures faced by levy payers. AHDB has asked for Ministerial approval for this step.”
UK Chicken market is still experiencing issues with shortages on all products, processors are having to short customers so all customers can have some product.
Labour shortages are the main problem in this sector and until the labour issues are addressed then we could expect some more disruption.
European Chicken has been stable for a while now and looks set to remain so.
A small rise in turkey products is to be expected.
Fewer turkeys were put on the ground in the UK for Christmas with labour issues in mind so there will be fewer UK product.
With shortages of UK product forecast for Christmas European product should be able to fill any gaps that we may experience.