Market Report - September 2021

Fresh Produce

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

Potato supply remains relatively stable, with a lot of new season crops readily available.

When deciding to move over to new crops it’s always worth checking the quality first. With some varieties, like the Maris Piper, it’s often better to work the old crop a little longer to achieve a longer shelf life.

With retail markets remaining strong over the Summer, chipping potatoes will hold at the current higher price.

Root Vegetables & Brassicas

UK Cauliflower and Broccoli are coming through in steady supply, with all the UK Cabbages – Savoy, Hispi red and white – also looking excellent.

Grower costs are higher due to the current staffing and haulage issues, but we expect to see a reduction in these costs as the season matures.

Carrots, Parsnips and Leeks are also more readily available and have seen only minor decreases in price, compared with previous years.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms have become quite short in supply due to import issues from Poland and increased labour and distribution costs. Recent hot temperatures have been causing burnouts in the Mushroom beds, creating high temperatures and destabilising the ability for Mushroom growth. Unfortunately, the air conditioning units inside the growing sheds haven’t been able to combat the increasingly warmer temperatures outside.

Fruit

The Stone Fruit season remains strong due to previous weather conditions being favourable. As we reach the end of the UK summer season, the South African season starts and looks to be able to deliver steady imports.

Although the UK had a bumper crop of Cherries, the short shelf life means the supply will only last a few more weeks. European fruit will last longer but the wholesale markets are already starting to import the more expensive American fruits.

Spanish Mercia Melons are coming through and are larger in size due to growers are holding onto the fruit a little longer, due to lack of immediate demand.

Top Fruit

Apples and Pears are going up.

Industry Pricing Detail

The European Apple and Pear crop forecast was released by the World Apple and Pear Association (WAPA) on 5 August. The forecast revealed Apple production is set to increase by 10 per cent, while the upcoming Pear crop is expected to decrease by 28 per cent.

More than 150 international representatives from the Apple and Pear sector took part in the Prognos fruit 2021 Online Conference, the second virtual edition of the event in its 46 years. The conference provided a platform to discuss the 2021 production forecast.

“Apple production in the EU for the 21 top producing countries is estimated, for the 2021/22 season, to be 11.735m tonnes,” said WAPA’s Philippe Binard. “Overall, this year’s crop is estimated to be 10 per cent higher than last year, but up only 1 per cent on the three-year average. It is therefore perceived to be a season with a balanced outlook.”

Poland is the leading producer, by county and is expecting a 22 per cent increase in volumes year-on-year, up to 4.17m tonnes. Italy is set for a slight fall of 4 per cent to 2.046m tonnes.

France and Germany are both expecting an increase in the size of their Apple crops, up 3 per cent and 6 per cent respectively, to 1.375m tonnes and 1.08m tonnes.

Both Golden Delicious and Gala varieties are forecast to increase by 8 per cent this year, to 2.12m tonnes and 1.563m tonnes.

Whilst the EU Apple crop is larger, the EU Pear crop for 2021/22 is estimated to decrease by 28 per cent compared to last year, to 1.604m tonnes and by 27 per cent compared to the three-year average,” Binard confirmed. “This is the smallest decade crop for Pears.”

Italy was the largest Pear producer in 2020 and is expecting a huge drop in production of up to 65 per cent this season, down from 611,000 tonnes to just 213,000 tonnes.

The Netherlands and Belgium take the top two positions in terms of volume, although they too are forecasting drops in production of 19 per cent (to 325,000 tonnes) and 25 per cent (to 295,000 tonnes) respectively.

By variety, this translates to a decrease of Conference Pears of 18 per cent to 805,000 tonnes and Abate Pears of 73 per cent to 66,000 tonnes.

The Pears are certainly one to watch over the coming season with expected price increases due to the 28% drop in volume, similarly, we may see sharper Apple prices over the coming season.

Salads

UK Lettuces and Baby Leaf are in full season, and the quality is excellent. However, recent heavy rainfall and the potential predicted hot weather at the end of the month may have an adverse effect on both availability and quality.

The Dutch Tomatoes are of fantastic quality, and as demand continues to outstrip supply, prices are rising.

Dutch and Polish Peppers are continually available, which is currently keeping prices stable.

Dairy

The price of producing Parmesan went up by between 40 to 60 percent in the spring and early summer months of last year. As Parmesan is a hard cheese requiring 10 months to age, most of the Parmesan that is now hitting the market has seen significant price increases.

The increased farmgate milk prices we have seen over the last few months have influenced cheese and yoghurt prices. The knock-on effect always follows a few months after any milk increase.

Buyers Choice - Blueberries

Blueberries increase the brain’s production of dopamine, a natural neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy. They’re also packed with antioxidants, nutrients and vitamins, ideal to boost your immune system. It’s one of the most nutrient-dense berries, containing fibre, potassium, folate, and vitamin B6, which can help reduce cholesterol and decrease the risk of heart disease.

Blueberry Facts!

  1. One large handful of blueberries contains just 44 calories but has 2 grams of dietary fibre and 10% of your daily recommended vitamin C content.
  2. Blueberries ranked number one in antioxidant health benefits in a comparison with more than 40 fresh fruits and vegetables.
  3. Blueberry is one of the only foods which is truly naturally blue in colour. The pigment that gives blueberries their distinctive colour—called anthocyanin—is the same compound that provides the blueberry’s amazing health benefits.
  4. People have been eating blueberries for more than 13,000 years.
  5. The blueberry (genus Vaccinium) is one of the only commercially available fruits that is native to North America.
  6. Blueberries were called “star-fruits” by North American indigenous peoples because of the five-pointed star shape which forms at the blossom end of the berry.
  7. A single blueberry bush can produce as many as 6,000 blueberries per year.
  8. British Columbia is the largest highbush blueberry growing region in the world. As a country, Canada ranks third behind the US and Chile. Blueberries are Canada’s most exported fruit.
  9. The silvery sheen (or “bloom”) found on the skin of blueberries is a naturally occurring compound that helps protect the fruit. This is why you should only wash blueberries right before you’re going to eat them. The berries should be stored in the refrigerator and will remain fresh for up to 10 days.
  10. Consumption of blueberries has been linked to health benefits including a reduced risk of cancer, increased insulin response, a reversal in age-related memory loss, and lowering blood pressure.

Beef

As demand for beef remains high, supplies remain limited and combined with labour shortages and transport issues, these factors continue to influence the beef sector. This means pricing looks set to remain firm and is likely to continue to increase over the coming months.

Strong global demand for protein has taken up additional beef supplies across the global market. This has also influenced the prices during the last 12 months. Herd sizes across the European Union are still declining, leading to restricted supply and higher prices. This is affecting the availability of imports to the United Kingdom, including from Ireland, one of our major suppliers.

High food service, as well as general demand, continues to dictate firm offer levels, with catering butchers pushing back against elevated prices. The majority of product is being absorbed via retail contracts, keeping prices firm, with little room for manoeuvre.

Industry Pricing Detail

Prime cattle prices rose across the board in the latest reporting week, despite an increase in the throughputs compared with last week.

In the week ending 31 July, the GB all-prime average deadweight cattle price rose by 1.0 pence to an average of 405.1p/kg. This is up 38.6 pence on the price for the same week a year ago.

Throughput of prime heifers, steers and young bulls at British abattoirs was estimated to be 32,100 heads for the week. This was 6% higher than the week before, but still down on the same week last year (-2%).

Although year-to-date prime cattle kill is down on last year (-3%) we need to factor in the unusual complexities faced in 2020. Slaughter for 2021 is estimated at 989k head. This is slightly above the levels recorded in the previous years, from 2016 to 2019, and is, therefore, also above the 5-year average, albeit by only 0.3%.

Overall cull cow prices fell back this week, down 1.4 pence to an average 292.4p/kg. Prices are have been holding at around the 292p/kg mark for the past four weeks. Cows of -O4L spec did show an increase, up 2.4 pence to 314.4p/kg. Cow kill at GB abattoirs was estimated to be 10,100 head during the week. While this is up 7% on the week before, it’s down -3% on the same week of the previous year. For year-to-date, estimated cow slaughter stands at 301k head, down 5% on the same period in 2020. Unlike prime slaughter, cow slaughter is also down on 2019 (-5%) and the 5-year average (-3%).

Lamb

As with beef, high demand, tight supplies, labour shortages and transport issues continue to influence the lamb sector. Demand for certain cuts is outstripping supply and some remain very expensive.

Imports coming forward are still expensive with availability set to continue to decline, driven by reduced availability from New Zealand and Australia.

With the lack of imports, numbers & the production of UK lamb down, demand for certain cuts will continue to rise and combined with limited availability, lamb pricing looks set to remain firm.

Industry Pricing Detail

Liveweight lamb prices took a tumble this week. In the week ending 4 August, the GB liveweight NSL SQQ fell 25 pence, to 227.46p/kg. Despite this recent drop, prices remain above last years levels. Weekly throughputs were back 12%, week-on-week to 102,000 head.

For a significant number of weeks, British and Irish finished lamb prices had been above their French counterparts. Historically, if British prices get close to French prices, and especially if they exceed them, export demand diminishes. It is perhaps not surprising then, that prices have been unable to resist this downward pressure and have now fallen.

In contrast to recent falls in liveweight prices, the GB deadweight NSL SQQ gained 5 pence, in the week ending 31 July, to stand at 565.5p/kg, this puts the measure over 80p/kg higher than last year. The estimated kill for the week was up 6% on the week, to 220,000 head.

Pork

Pork prices look set to remain firm although industry reports state labour shortages are being felt across the entire pig sector, including on farms. The demand for British pork is currently strong, but pork plants are struggling to meet this due to the lack of staff.

Industry Pricing Detail

In the week ending 31 July, the GB EU-spec SPP averaged 160.93p/kg, a modest increase of 0.03 pence on the week before.

Clean pig slaughter was estimated to be 165,700 head for the week, similar to the week before (+100 head). Throughput was well below last year’s level for the third consecutive week.

There are reports of pigs being rolled across several producers, as well as coronavirus-related staffing issues giving way to more systemic staffing problems in some abattoirs.

Poultry

The UK Chicken market remains under pressure with high demand, limited availability and retail taking priority over food service. Coupled with labour issues, this has resulted in increases on most UK products, making certain cuts difficult to purchase. Producers have been shorting cuts due to labour issues and maximising time spent getting the best possible yields from the chicken.

European chicken prices seem to have stabilised for the time being.

Industry Pricing Detail

Poland, Europe’s largest exporter of poultry has seen a rise of 33% on the average wholesale Chicken price over the last year, the highest since 2014. Turkey meat in Poland has reached its highest level ever up 40%.

Turkey producers have been switching to Chicken to take advantage of high wholesale prices. This coupled with a lack of frozen stocks means we could very well see even higher pricing for Turkey over the Christmas period in December.