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.
Potatoes currently have two seasons running creating a mixture of low and high priced potato ranges.
Potato growers in the UK have weathered difficult conditions. The crop is currently being lifted but market conditions remain uncertain. Although Potatoes were planted in good conditions, a very wet winter gave way to a drier spring, followed by an unseasonal April. The continued unusual weather in May with a mixed summer of rain and heat is expected to deliver an interesting season for this staple crop.
New-season crops are due to drop over the next few weeks, as they become more readily available.
Initially, there were rumours Baking potato prices would increase, however, over the last month prices have remained low, and the crop is in steady supply.
Farmers had been holding back Cauliflower crops, but the recent rain has meant they’ve all come in at the same time. This has pushed prices up for the last week. The next crop is coming on well over the next week, and we can expect a good supply for the rest of September and October.
Broccoli has remained steady and will be in strong supply for the next 6-8 weeks. The Spanish season starts in October and will add to the current supply available in the market.
Peaches, nectarines, and plums continue to remain strong due to previous good weather conditions. As we reach the end of summer, we will see a gap in some stone fruit while we wait for the South African season to start.
UK strawberries will continue until October when the quality starts to drop off. At this point, the Dutch imports will arrive and we’ll see prices start to escalate.
Spanish Murcia Melons are coming to an end to be replaced by the Brazilian season starting at the end of the month. The price will be expected to rise a little.
Spanish Primo Fiori lemons are due to start soon, we should see prices drop as the season matures. Imported fruit is always one to watch especially with the new import rules due to Brexit.
South African Oranges are coming to an end with the Spanish Oranges not expected to start until the 3rd week of October. Prices remain will firm until this starts.
Spanish Satsumas are also starting soon becoming more plentiful through October.
French apples including Golden Granny, Royal Gala and Red Delicious are readily available now with Braeburn and Pink Lady starting to come into season shortly.
Wholesalers are buying apples following price trends, which can be volatile, as more of the season’s availability comes through.
UK lettuces and baby leaf are coming to the end of the current season and the quality remains excellent. Mild weather will extend crops until the new Spanish season starts then prices will rise significantly. Winter imported mixed leaf, herbs and spinach will be available as the UK season finishes.
Brexit trade rules are hampering Dutch tomato exports to the UK. This has led to Moroccan tomato exports increasing. This is upsetting European Union tomato growers and exporters. The Spanish and Dutch growers are being hardest hit as these crops face heavier competition from Morocco in the UK marketplace.
Brexit complicates trade between the Netherlands and the UK too. It’s unlikely they will reach the previous import levels the Dutch have been used to.
Morocco’s fresh tomato export volumes have been steadily climbing since 2011 with an average of 3% increase year on year.
In turn, Spain’ exports have been decreasing by the same average percentage. Yet, the Netherlands’ exported tomato crops remain stable.
Moroccan tomatoes are increasingly gaining popularity in the UK. This doesn’t sit well with several EU agricultural interest groups and politicians, especially from Spain. There is currently an EU lobby for stricter import rules for Moroccan tomatoes to enter the EU market.
Dutch interest groups have also added their voice to the lobbying action.
However, more stringent import regulations in the EU have little effect on the Dutch export position. Most of the competition between Moroccan and Dutch tomatoes occurs in the UK. There, Brexit will further accelerate the rise of the Moroccan tomato.
Morocco’s market share in the UK has risen sharply, though it has a fairly limited position in the EU and UK markets, with an approximate 6% market share of the seven billion kg market available. France buys the most Moroccan tomatoes with 320 million kgs, the UK and Spain follow with 83 and 78 million kgs respectively. France and Spain represent reasonably small sales for the Dutch market.
Cox’s Orange Pippin – in Britain, often referred to simply as Cox’s, this apple is a cultivar (a variety produced by selective breeding) first grown in 1830, at Colnbrook in Buckinghamshire, England, by the retired brewer and renowned horticulturist Richard Cox.
Cox didn’t share the heritage of his new variety, but it seems likely he used the Ribston Pippin, which in turn was likely to have been derived from the French Margil apple.
Cox’s Orange pippin first went on sale in the 1850s, proving so popular it has been grown for commercial purposes ever since. Initially grown in the Worcestershire Vale of Evesham and then latterly in the productive orchards of Kent.
Cox’s popularity comes from both its attractive appearance and excellent taste. The aromatic yellow-white flesh is fine-grained, juicy, and crisp. Various tasting notes include hints of pear, mango, and melon, or even cherry. The flavour mellows with age, but many suggest it should be eaten within a few weeks of being picked.
You can tell when a Cox is ripe, by giving it a shake. The pips are only loosely held in the flesh, so a ripe apple will rattle.
The UK apple market is worth over £100m but only about a third of the eating apples sold in the UK are home-grown. The UK is the only country that grows apples specifically for cooking.
Extended storage of apples is achieved by controlled atmosphere storage, where the fruit is sealed in gas-proof refrigerated chambers. This minimises fruit respiration, delays ripening and reduces losses due to shrivelling as well as several other issues.
Early ripening apples, such as Discovery, fair less well with the storage process than later-maturing varieties, such as Granny Smith. Bramley apples can be kept ‘fresh’ virtually all year round by using this technique.
Fruit-breeders are always looking to improve the flavour, the resistance to storage disorders, and the ‘long storage’ characteristics in apples. The number of sugars and malic acid in each variety determines the balance of sweetness and tartness. The more malic acid and fewer sugars present, the stronger the flavour and the greater the likelihood of the flavour being retained once the apple is cooked.
GB prime cattle prices are rising slowly, whilst prime cattle slaughter estimates are down. This means a move towards more “value” cuts would make economic sense to consider when designing new menu’s.
With Autumn on the way and the weather getting colder, soups and casseroles will start making more appearances on menus. Using diced beef chuck can be an effective option when cooking a good, warm beef stew.
Chuck is a primal cut, mainly deriving from the shoulder section of the cow. This cut is loaded with lots of flavour making it a great choice for slow-cooked stews.
Industry Pricing Detail
On 1st July, there were 7.98 million cattle on the ground in the UK, 62,800 head fewer than the same point a year ago. This maintains the trend seen in GB cattle numbers over the past 3 years, being the 15th consecutive set of quarterly figures that show a year-on-year decline.
GB prime cattle prices look likely to slowly rise again, the GB all-prime average deadweight cattle price moved up another 0.5p with the weekly average at 410.4p/kg.
Looking at the average price, overall, the movement was more mixed. The average steer price saw the largest growth of 0.7p, with the heifer price edging up 0.3p on the week before. Young bulls performed less well, with the overall price falling 2.2p on the previous week.
Slaughter of prime cattle at GB abattoirs was estimated to be 27,500 head for the week, this is down 9% on the week before and down 2% on the year. Continued tighter cattle numbers and potential harvest operations will have contributed to lower throughputs.
The overall average GB deadweight cow price, slipped by a further 1.3p on the week to an average 289.6p/kg. Despite this, the measure was still 37p above the price recorded for the same week a year ago. Animals of O4L spec lost 3.3p to average 309.0p/kg.
Cull throughputs in GB were estimated to be 9,300 head for the week, down 16% on the week before and down 9% year-on-year.
Beef pricing is expected to remain firm.
Lamb has been under pressure due to a decline in slaughtering, whilst freight costs remain high. There’s also a decline in the production of sheep meat from New Zealand and Australia, meaning prices remain higher than in the same period last year.
Industry Pricing Detail
Liveweight prices have been under pressure this week. There was a noticeable uplift in numbers coming forward. Lamb throughputs for the week stood at 129,500. Heads and prices remain 24p higher than the same period last year. Making it 56p higher than the five-year average.
The GB deadweight NSL SQQ declined 1.4p, the quote remains over 70p above year-earlier levels, slaughtering’s at 220,000, which is down 10% on the week and a whopping 27% on the same period last year.
Some industry reports suggest supermarkets are reluctant to push lamb in a bid to ensure their profit margin remains consistent. This is likely to bring pressure to the market. Whilst freight costs remain high, import levels are limited.
The import of sheep meat has been under pressure for some time. Production in New Zealand and Australia have been low compared to historic values.
As global shipping costs remain high, there is also the issue of container availability and with recent demand from Asia rising, there’s no reason to presume a sharp divergence from recent and current levels.
Imports add to balancing the demand in the UK, both in terms of cuts preferred by UK consumers, and the seasonality of supply.
Longer-term volumes need to stabilise for the UK’s continued need for imports to meet the balance against domestic production. This year import volumes are expected to drop by 13%, to 58,000 tonnes. On the export side, the UK shipped in 4,200 tonnes of fresh and frozen sheep meat in June. This is 5% less than a year ago and 12% lower than May.
Volumes from New Zealand are 16% lower, year-on-year, standing at 2,800 tonnes. For the Year-to-date UK sheep meat imports totalled 27,700 tonnes, down 17% on the same period last year.
Future price Indications around imports from New Zealand & Australia remain high, leading to some importers becoming reluctant to purchase the meat at such high price levels.
Lamb pricing is expected to remain firm.
GB finished pig prices are lower than last year. Production costs however remain high, primarily caused by rising feed costs combined with increased labour costs, compared to the first quarter of 2021.
Industry Pricing Detail
The EU-spec SPP slipped slightly but is still 5.69p above the five-year average.
Estimated slaughter of finished pigs at GB abattoirs totalled 158,300 head for the week, 1% lower than the week before and 13% below the same week a year ago.
Pig carcases weighed 88.40kg on average for the week, 1.19kg heavier than the week before, and 3.20kg heavier compared to a year ago. These figures support the reports of continued backlog issues in the supply chain, with labour issues impacting the required abattoir throughput.
The price increase primarily reflects rising feed costs, as elevated global cereal and oilseed prices affect the cost of pig feed. However, both the labour and fixed costs have also increased compared to the first quarter of 2021.
Pig prices have also increased compared to the start of the year. The APP averaged 154p/ kg in Q2, 9p/kg which is more than during the first quarter. However, compared to last year, prices are 13p/kg lower. This means that, on average, pig producers remain in a significant loss-making situation. Estimated net margins stand at -28p/kg (or -£24/head) in Q2 2021, a similar situation to the first quarter.
The first half of 2021 represents the worst financial situation on record for pig producers, over a six-month period. It’s typical for pig production to go through cycles of profitability and then loss-making, but it’s unusual for margins to be this low for such a prolonged period.
The pork market seems to be settling, yet the main challenge of how quickly farmers can get pigs from the farms and into the supply chain remains. Carcass weights are rising due to a high volume of pigs remaining on farms, inevitably adding pressure on pricing at the heavier weights.
Pork pricing looks to remain firm.
The UK chicken market remains under pressure with high demand, short availability and retail taking priority over food service.
Well documented supply issues for KFC, Nando’s, and more recently Greggs have put the poultry issues firmly in headline news. The issues facing the industry will continue until the shortage of labour is addressed and the gaps are filled across all levels of the supply chain.
The mainstream news is full of the current situation which is affecting so many parts of the supply chain. Even the supermarket shelves are suffering. This raises bigger concerns, considering this sector comes first when it comes to access to the supply chain before anyone else.
Turkey is also in the news, warning of shortages at Christmas due to lack of labour and limited stocks, turkey prices look to become expensive, just in time for Christmas.
Poultry prices look to remain firm with turkey prices increasing.