As the coronavirus starts to take hold in the UK many people are choosing to work from home, they are also eating out less and many big sporting events were cancelled over the weekend. This will inevitably have an effect on trade within the fresh produce sector.
On Friday 13 March, the Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC) wrote to the Secretary of State, Defra to highlight specific concerns relating to the wholesale and foodservice sectors.
"We are seeking your support for the UK fresh produce industry, in particular, wholesalers and foodservice businesses supplying fresh fruit, vegetables, cut flowers and plants to the hospitality and public sectors and the current impacts of the outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19). This sector supplies over 35 percent of UK fresh produce." FPC wrote. "The drop in footfall at restaurants, bars and clubs, cessation of flights and cruises, and all kinds of events is resulting in cancellation of orders for wholesalers and foodservice businesses. The decision of the Scottish Government to stop large public events is an additional factor for several of our members, and an indication of further impacts to come in due course across the UK," it continued. "For many businesses this immediate loss of orders is catastrophic as they have little or no opportunity to secure new business, resulting in an immediate impact on their cash flow and a threat to job security in this sector," it went on to explain.
Andy Weir from Reynolds, a major supplier to the food service industry said “we are seeing a shift in demand from one sector to another, where foodservice is undoubtedly quieter and retail is buoyant.”
“There will be an effect on workplace supply and the lunchtime trade will also be hit. Restaurants and hotels will also see fewer guests, supplying to the healthcare market is unaffected.”
The UK has no lock-down in place and schools are still open, only Scotland has banned gatherings of large numbers of people. The supermarkets are extremely busy and retail sales are up.
“The biggest challenge for foodservice will be managing stock levels" Weir explained, "but so far we are not seeing major issues in non-availability of stock.
"The key focus is making sure our employees are safe and have access to sanitising facilities and, where possible, people can work from home.
"Our workers are pulling together and we have ramped up our return to work policy for those who have been abroad,” he added.