Today's important COVID-19 news in the fresh produce sector

Corona-update: French Minister asks EU to support fruit and veg producers

In the latest news from another Corona-centric week, French Minister of Agriculture Didier Guillaume has asked the EU to support his nation’s fruit and vegetable producers. In Canada, asparagus farmers are afraid they'll lose their crops without workers. A US government report warns of the serious damage that the measures taken by the Spanish government are causing, while in Florida, citrus has been added to the list of agricultural commodities for which truck size and weight restrictions have been lifted.

A drop in fruit and vegetable prices could force Turkish farmers to trim their output this spring, while container shipping companies continue to cancel transoceanic sailings to bring the vessel capacity in line with the current cargo demand.

This, and much more, in today’s Corona-virus update.

French Minister asks EU to support fruit and vegetable producers
France asks the EU to support fruit and vegetable producers in connection with losses from the coronavirus pandemic. According to "European truth" With reference to BMF TV, the French Minister of Agriculture Didier Guillaume made this request to the European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski.

In his appeal, Didier Guillaume asks for an urgent launch of the support mechanisms provided for by the general agricultural policy, due to the rapid decline of some agricultural markets as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to him, producers of fruits and vegetables need support as they suffered as a result of the closure of public catering enterprises and open-air markets, as well as producers of flowers and grapes.

Canadian asparagus farmer may lose crop without workers
If his migrant workers don’t arrive soon, a Thamesville asparagus farmer may have to destroy crops worth $700,000 that won’t be picked in time. John Jaques of Sunshine Farms is bringing in 30 people from Mexico. The first are scheduled to arrive April 23-24, but they’ll be quarantined for 14 days under COVID-19 rules for temporary foreign workers. Jaques expects the harvest to begin the first week of May.

“Even if they all got here on the 24th, which I doubt that they will, by the time they do their isolation, it’s going to be too late for the crop. We try to hire local people, but if we can’t make that work, then when it comes up, we take a mower to it.”

On Monday, federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced Canadian farmers and food processors will receive $50 million in federal funds to ensure temporary foreign workers follow the mandatory COVID-19 quarantine.

Some 300 Jamaican workers who landed in Halifax this week are now on farms in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, weeks later than they usually would’ve been. Some workers are at Keddy Nursery, which grows everything from strawberry plants to asparagus and sweet potatoes. Before they can work though, they must spend 14 days in isolation, which is the case for all migrant farm workers who arrived in Canada after the lockdowns began.

US report marks true extent of Spain’s agricultural suffering|
A US government report warns of the serious damage that the measures taken by the Spanish government to tackle the coronavirus pandemic are causing on the Spanish countryside and agriculture sector.

The knock-on effects of these measures have caused: a drastic reduction in labour, a drop in consumption and the saturation of storage are causing incalculable losses that, in many cases, will last until next year.

The report, titled ‘Update on the situation of agriculture and food in Spain during the Covid-19’ states that the sectors suffering the greatest damage are horticulture, ornamental plants and dairy. In addition, the closure of the hotel sector has negatively affected sales of Iberian pork, suckling pig, lamb, beef and seafood.

The document also states that ‘movement limitations within Spain, such as the minimum number of passengers allowed per vehicle, are slowing down the journey of workers to the field.’

Hauling limits for Florida citrus lifted
Citrus has been added to the list of agricultural commodities for which truck size and weight restrictions have been lifted in the face of COVID-19. A Florida Department of Transportation enforcement bulletin issued April 13 stated that citrus and the other commodities for which restrictions were lifted had been identified by Florida’s agriculture commissioner and approved by Florida’s secretary of transportation. See a copy of the enforcement bulletin here.

Other commodities for which size and weight restrictions were lifted are forestry and forestry products, livestock, milk and milk products, poultry and poultry products, vegetables, rice and sugar.

Turkish fruit & veg farmers wary as closed borders slice prices
A sharp drop in the price of fruits and vegetables could force Turkish farmers to trim output this spring as the coronavirus pandemic slows exports and reduces the needs of restaurants and shops, food industry executives say.

Turkey, ninth globally in confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease, is among the world’s top exporters of fresh produce such as tomatoes, apricots, tangerines, eggplants and peppers.

But in March, heading into the planting season, prices dropped 6.6% for fruits and vegetables, according to year-over-year consumer price data. It was the only basket of goods to decline while a broader measure of food rose 10%.

Executives say this is the result of cratering demand in Europe and elsewhere as measures to curb the pandemic have disrupt cross-border supply chains, restrict social movement and tip the global economy into recession.

Californian Port hosts blood drive for COVID-19 relief efforts
As the Port Hueneme continues moving cargo to stock the shelves at grocery stores throughout California and 15 western states, waterfront workers went above and beyond the call by hosting a blood drive at the Port of Hueneme today.

“Our Port family answered the call, with longshoreman and stevedores coming together to donate blood to the American Red Cross,” said Oxnard Harbor District Board President Jess Ramirez. “Our waterfront workers are heroes, not only have they been working day and night to make sure our families have food in the stores, they are now lining up to donate their blood.”

Air cargo continues fight against Covid-19
Aircargonews.nethas come out with a comprehensive roundup of air cargo companies’ efforts to meet the challenges presented by Covid-19.

Container lines cut even more services to prop up rates
Container shipping companies including Maersk Line, MSC and others continue to cancel transoceanic sailings to bring vessel capacity in line with pandemic-stricken cargo demand. And by doing so, they’ve been able keep freight pricing from collapsing, so far.

According to Copenhagen-based Sea-Intelligence, container lines have canceled 458 sailings since Chinese New Year, including cancellations in February and March driven by the shutdown in Wuhan, China, and cancellations in April-June driven by plunging import demand in Europe and the U.S.

Breaking down the total, 89 cancellations were due to the Wuhan shutdown and 369 were due to demand fallout in the West. In the latter category, 83 sailings were canceled last week (through April 11). The week prior, there were 167 cancellations — twice as many.

Idaho farm is giving away 2 million potatoes
With the Corona-virus severely affecting the potato supply chain, a farm in Idaho is giving away about 2 million potatoes so they don't go to waste. Ryan Cranney, CEO of Cranney Farms in Oakley, Idaho, about 150 miles from Boise, told CNN the majority of his potatoes from the farm are typically sold to grocery stores and to restaurants to make French fries.

Because of stay-at-home orders throughout the nation, Cranney said the food service demand is down significantly, leaving him with six months’ worth of crop.

"With people staying at home, these restaurants have shut down and so our markets have just kind of fallen apart," Cranney said. "The factories that we sell to for French fries, they've lost their sales and had to shut their factories down with freezers full of French fries and so the outlets for our potatoes, we're having a difficult time getting them to market."

Canadian potato industry also feels the impacts
The pandemic has caused uncertainty in industries across the world, including within Canada’s agriculture sector. Lethbridge News Now spoke with Terence Hochstein, the executive director of the Potato Growers of Alberta. He said fry processing plants are either currently not running or running at limited capacity. This in turn is creating problems with the potatoes that are in storage right now.

“It’s going to make this storage season very long. That in turn will cut into the 2020 crop year, therefore that’s why we do have the reduction in acreage that would be planted this spring in southern Alberta for the fry industry,” he said.

Lockdown has no impact on Anantapur banana exports
Banana exports remained unaffected and the volume of exports remained the same even in corona lockdown context but the export price has declined from Rs 8,000 per tonne in 2018-19 fiscal to Rs 5,000 per tonne.

Banana farmer Rajasekhar from Tadipatri told The Hans India that although they are disappointed at the slump in banana export price in the lockdown context, he said he is happy that the exporters honouring the MoUs and buying their produce although at a reduced price. The reduced price is still a remunerative one, he adds.

Presently the domestic inland price and the export price have almost been the same, with about Rs 3,000 per tonne fall in export prices of Grand Naine variety bananas.

Malaysia: Doorstep delivery of durians in Penang
Penang durian sellers are now delivering the fruit right up to the doorstep of customers. State Tourism, Arts, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Yeoh Soon Hin said this service will allow many to savour the king of fruits without having to leave their houses in compliance with the Movement Control Order.

"Usually, during the durian season, many will make their way to Balik Pulau and Seberang Perai to enjoy the much-sought-after fruit that Penang is well known for. It has also brought many tourists to Penang as it is one of our local specialties. One of tourism’s most important aspect is the revenue generated, which helps locals to earn an income. However, during the MCO duration, tourism is affected and, undoubtedly, the revenue that tourism brings as well," he said.

Freight subsidy for New Guinea vegetable transportation
Minister for National Planning and Monitoring, Samuel Basil, has announced that the Papua New Guinea government has embarked on an intervention on freight subsidy for sea and air as part of it economic stimulus package.

"With the restrictions due to COVID-19 State of Emergency, I am aware of concerns that fresh produce and vegetables outbound from Lae have ground to a halt due to limited shipping movements arising from fears of business losses by service providers,' said Minister Basil. "This foodstuff is needed in Port Moresby supermarkets and re-sellers.”

The cash income is needed by village producers, buyers and land transport service providers in the Highlands and Morobe provinces as well as re-sellers in Port Moresby and even in the New Guinea Islands. "I have therefore been in consultation with the Prime Minister on this matter. He supports this and also endorses the importance to be able to reach areas of our country reachable only by aircraft for medical evacuation and emergency purposes at this time amid COVID-19.

Australia’s food supply secure
Australia has one of the world’s most secure food supplies, with ample stocks of safe and healthy produce primed to guide the nation through coronavirus. The federal government’s agriculture forecaster, ABARES, has released a new report on Friday looking at farmers’ capacity in response to the global pandemic. Australia produces much more food than it can consume, with 70 per cent of agricultural produce exported.

“The vast majority of our food is produced here in Australia, and domestic production more than meets our needs even during drought years,” the report said. A little more than 10 per cent of domestically consumed food and beverages are imported to meet shoppers’ preferences.

India: Lockdown and labor problems vex Punjab farmers
Vegetable farmers in Punjab, especially those growing cucumber, cabbage, bell peppers, mushrooms and strawberries, are grappling with lockdown problems. With almost the complete hospitality sector closed, these farmers are struggling to make ends meet.

Besides, farmers say lack of government aid, stringent guidelines, shortage of labour, erratic power supply and delay in lifting of the produce from mandis have compounded the problem.

According to polyhouse farmer Davinder Singh Mushkabad in Machhiwara town of Ludhiana, the lockdown has completely ruined the sector. “I have been farming for nearly 30 years, but have never witnessed such a massive loss. While the vegetable crop is ready, we do not have labourers to harvest it. If we manage to harvest with each other’s help, the supply chain also has problems. These products were meant for niche markets. With marriage palaces, hotels, restaurants and shopping malls closed, our produce is perishing.”

Agri traders demand reopening of Pakistan-Afghan border
All Pakistan Agricultural Produce Traders Federation (APAPTF) has appealed to the government to reopen the Pakistan-Afghan border and allow export of fruit and vegetables to save their precious products and prevent losses worth millions of rupees.

“It is deplorable to note that the trucks full of fruit and vegetables are stuck at Pak-Afghan border despite the fact that all the relevant departments have cleared the routine procedures,” said the federation president Malik Sohni.


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