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

Corona-update: Organic food around the world gets coronavirus boost

In the last update article of this week, we look at the US, where Arizona growers are worried about their future, which would put fruit and vegetables in short supply locally. Wisconsin, on the other hand, might see oversupply of potatoes and cranberries. State officials in Florida are looking at ways to reopen the commerce in their state. On a more global scale, organic food stuffs are seeing a boost in sales due to the current situation.

On a lighter note, West Ham United manager David Moyes has been spotted delivering fruit and vegetables to families in his local community.

While local Nepalese vegetable farmers are looking for market during the lockdown period, vegetables are still being imported from India, where -in Uttar Pradesh- retail potato prices have spiked 20%-30% this week.

This and more in today’s update. Have a nice and safe weekend.


Arizona growers worried about demise, putting fruit and vegetables in short supply
March is typically Kate McClendon's busiest month. But that changed with the coronavirus pandemic. Her family farm, McClendon's Select, in Peoria, Arizona, supplies organic fruits and vegetables to about 90 restaurants, which normally receive a flood of customers with the spring weather.

Now, those businesses have shut down as state and local officials try to stem the spread of the virus. For McClendon, the closures have been devastating. "Basically 95% of our restaurant business went away overnight," she said.

"There are going to be businesses, myself included, who might not be able to survive this," McClendon added. "If those small farms are allowed just to go away, it is going to be too expensive to start it back up again."

Farmers are rushing to adapt to the new normal, and the government is scrambling to help.

Organic food gets coronavirus boost
The coronavirus pandemic is leading to a surge in demand for organic and sustainable foods. Retailers across the globe are experiencing hefty sales increases for organic products. Online retailers are reporting the highest sales growth.

Whole Foods Market, the world’s largest natural food retailer, has started limiting the number of its online grocery customers because of unprecedented demand. In the UK, Abel & Cole reported a 25% increase in sales orders, whilst Riverford is reporting a demand surge. Nourish Organic, an Indian online retailer, experienced a 30% sales rise last month.

Physical retailers are also benefiting from emergency measures introduced by various governments. Organic and health food shops have remained open in many countries; they are attracting new shoppers, whilst existing customers are spending more. In France, some organic food shops are reporting sales increases of over 40%. COVID-19 is raising consumer awareness of the relationship between nutrition and health. Consumers are buying more organic and healthy foods as they look to boost their personal immunity.

The surge in demand is however bringing supply issues. The organic food industry is now global with international supply networks that are coming under pressure. Many of the raw materials used by European and North American organic food companies are produced in Asia, Latin America and Africa. Lockdowns are disrupting supply chains. For instance, India is a major source of organic tea, herbs, spices & related ingredients. Emergency measures introduced in March have halted food processing and exports.

Click here to read the full article.

US: Wisconsin might see oversupply of potatoes and cranberries
Because of COVID-19, restaurants and schools have been closed which is hurting farmers across the Badger state. But, there are ways to help. "One of the advantages that farmers have over other industries is that a lot of the work that they do is already isolated," said Heather Schessler, Dairy Agent for UW-extension Marathon County.

However, the coronavirus is posing challenges as 60 percent of potatoes are processed for the food service industry. Schessler said: "Unfortunately with potatoes, its shelf-stable to a point. But the good thing about potatoes is you can turn them into a frozen product as well, and that will help extend that shelf life."

As of right now restaurants and schools are unable to use up last year's crop which will eventually create storage problems.

"That is a big issue that we're going to have across the board is we only have so much storage capacity so while we may be able to make these shelf-stable products how much freezer space is there available," said Schessler.

Some farmers are redirecting last year's crop to local food pantries while others are looking to change their 2020 plans.

How state officials plan to reopen Florida
From travel and tourism to farming and education, virtually every aspect of Florida’s economy has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Airline travel, cruises, and agriculture, and what it would take to get them going again, were major talking points during the Reopen Florida Task Force conference call Thursday.

Airline industry leaders said companies will need to not only adopt rules, but follow them to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic and ensure travelers feel safe. Officials said safety rules will have to start from the time you leave home all the way to the ticket counter, gate and then the plane.

Click here to find out about all measures.

West Ham United manager David Moyes delivers fruit and veg David Moyes took inspiration from east London’s historic Spitalfields Market to deliver fruit and vegetables to families in his local community.

With football suspended until further notice due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, managers and players have returned home to their families, following government guidelines to protect the NHS and save lives.

At a uniquely challenging time, many have contributed, either by making donations or, in Moyes’ case, delivering baskets of healthy food in the Lancashire village in which he lives with his wife Pamela.

“When the virus first started out, I was in a fruit and veg shop in the village here,” said the Hammers boss, whose volunteering is in keeping with the Club’s community ethos. “The shop was asking for drivers to deliver fruit and veg, so I became a driver for the fruit and veg shop to deliver the fruit and veg to all the people in the neighbourhood.”

Nepal: Vegetable imports from India continue
While the local vegetable farmers are looking for market during the lockdown period, vegetables are still being imported from India. According to the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies a total of 38,863 tonnes of fresh vegetables have been imported from India during the lockdown period.

As per ministry’s data, a total of 6,289 tonnes of vegetables were imported in the first week of lockdown, which rose to 10,707 tonnes in the second week. While the quantity dropped to 10,222 tonnes in the third week, it surged by 14 per cent to 11,713 tonnes in the fourth week.

At the same time, local farmers have been forced to destroy their vegetables in lack of market. Due to the restriction on vehicular movements, farmers are unable to supply their products in the market, said Nawaraj Basnet, president of Nepal Farmer Group Federation.

Florida growers: End red tape, fix transport problems
Florida’s $8 billion agriculture industry is poised to deliver much needed fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products but is hamstrung by bureaucratic obstacles, labor shortages, supply chain disruption and an unreliable transportation network, state farmers said.

As a result, crops are rotting in fields, milk is being dumped and many of the state’s 48,000 farms are floundering financially, farmers told the 30-member Re-Open Florida Task Force Industry Working Group on Agriculture, Finance, Government, Healthcare, Management and Professional Service on Thursday.

The group, led by Senate President-designate Wilton Simpson, an egg farmer in Longwood, is one of four subpanels identifying obstructions to reopening Florida's economy and forwarding ideas to the task force’s 22-member executive committee.

Uttar Pradesh potato prices at retail up by 20%-30%
Retail potato prices have spiked 20%-30% this week. Uttar Pradesh, the largest producer of the crop with 155,000 -160,000 tonnes annually, saw a drop in demand from Azadpur and Kanpur mandis, but traders said prices are up because vegetable vendors are taking advantage of the lockdown.

Cold storages in West Bengal, the second largest producer of potato, are not being able to operate due to shortage of labour. “Of the 460 cold storages in the state, only 50 are functioning due to shortage of labour. “Of the 460 cold storages in the state, only 50 are functioning due to labour shortages,” said Patit Paban De, member of West Bengal Cold Storage Association.

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