Fruit Attraction plans to go ahead in October 2020
Raúl Calleja, Director of Fruit Attraction, has announced the dates for the trade fair this year: 20–22 October in Madrid, as well as a “liveconnect” from 1–31 October (Fresh Plaza, 5 June). Fruit Attraction states: “This year it will be a great tribute to all professionals in the fruit and vegetable industry with the aim of serving as a fulcrum to promote the reconstruction of international trade relations within the sector.” Calleja writes “Faced with a new scenario full of new opportunities, and with the fact that global distributors need to continue guaranteeing the supply of fresh products, Fruit Attraction has the responsibility to play its great role as sector facilitator in October, a key month for campaign planning, and to continue promoting the necessary commercial meetings between global supply and demand, between companies and professionals.”
Pressure on Kenyan exports to Europe
According to Ojepat Okesegere, executive director of the Kenyan Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC), fruit and vegetable production could drop by 20 to 30% in June (FLD Hebdo, 4 June). Heavy rains have greatly increased the phytosanitary pressure on farms, at a time when exports to Europe are tentatively resuming after the Covid-19 crisis had brought trade to a virtual standstill. To add to the difficulties, from 26 May the European Union has tightened controls on maximum pesticide limits for Kenyan green beans, raising the price and threatening access if the country fails to comply (Fresh Plaza, 14 May). The new directive makes all beans from Kenya subject to a 10% mandatory sampling, with excessive levels of pesticide residues likely to lead to total ban. The EU had initially capped the sampling at 5%, and the doubling of the sample size is expected to hit farmers and make the produce more expensive in the world market. In 2019 the export turnover of Kenyan green beans reached €212.5 million, the main markets being the UK, the Netherlands, France and Belgium.
UK’s fragile supply chains
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced many food retailers and producer stores to invent new ways to supply their local customers (FPC Fresh Talk Daily, 6 June). For the agri-food sector, increased demand for local products could have a direct impact on small businesses in the coming months. The crisis has revealed the fragility of over-long supply chains and their sensitivity to short-term shocks. Half of the UK’s food now comes from abroad, including up to 90% of fruit and vegetables. E-commerce sites have shown their limits as they have been overwhelmed and have not been able to meet demand. So independent local producers have quickly created safe and personalised services through online shopping, home delivery and simple drive-in collection systems, which has helped to gain the trust of new customers.
A paper published in the journal Nature Food warns that the pandemic has exposed how vulnerable the UK’s food system is, with a “dangerous dependence” on two EU countries, Spain and the Netherlands, for fresh vegetables (FPC Fresh Talk Daily, 5 June). The report warns that there is not enough domestic food production, while just-in-time supply chains and labour market problems due to Brexit have all helped weaken the UK food system. 83% of the lettuces imported to the UK come via Dover, along with 67% of tomatoes and 77% of strawberries. Covid-19 could be “enough of a systemic shock” that processes that normally resolve problems could no longer function. The authors propose that a new strategic plan be considered to reorient the UK food system to grow more food sustainably in the UK. The study suggests more crop diversification, investment in skills, training and digital automation to solve labour problems, as well as evaluating new approaches such as vertical farming.
A webinar recently organised by the Netherlands-Africa Business Council focused on “How to build stronger trade ties between the Netherlands and Ethiopia post Covid-19?” Million Samuel, Ambassador of Ethiopia to the Netherlands, advised Dutch companies to look beyond floriculture/horticulture and explore new areas of cooperation in agriculture, manufacturing, energy, ICT and service sectors. Ethiopia, as a major economic partner of the Netherlands, is one of 15 countries included in the ‘African Strategy of the Dutch Private Sector’ developed to stimulate Dutch companies to do business with Africa. The webinar was organised as part of the recently launched Africa Strategy in the Netherlands. Ms. Laurenske van den Heuvel-Gerestein, Policy Officer for Trade and Investment in the Embassy of the Netherlands in Addis Ababa, expressed appreciation of the Ethiopian Government’s early response to curb the impact of Covid-19, and the creative measures used by Ethiopian Airlines to focus on cargo and alternative routes.
Consumers – fruit and vegetable consumption up
According to the Growth from Knowledge (GfK) Consumer Index, in April, during the time of Covid-19, Germany’s consumption of fresh vegetables increased by 25% by volume (Fruchthandel, 2 June). Prices also increased (+14%), and sales of fresh vegetables increased by 42%, compared to April 2019. The price level for fresh fruit in April 2020 was significantly higher than the previous year (+17%). Fruits also saw a 37% increase in sales: citrus fruits (+59%) and pome fruits (+40%). Bananas increased by 18% by volume and there was a small price increase of +3%. With the beginning of the strawberry season, sales volumes increased by +25%.
According to Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, the health crisis has resulted in an increase in consumption of +75% for some fruits and vegetables (Fructidor, 4 June). Consumers appear to be aware that fruit and vegetables are essential for better health. In March the demand for fresh vegetables and potatoes increased by 18.6% compared to 2019, and this trend continued through April and into May: +44.5% 6–12 April; +75% 13–19 April; and +32.1% in the last week of April. In the first week of May, consumption was up for vegetables (+44%) and fruit (+36.6%) compared with the same week in 2019; the following week, vegetables were up +37% and fruit +26%. The fruit and vegetable sectors expect this trend to continue after the health crisis.