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

Corona-update: Food & Beverage brands that have adapted to Covid-19

In the last Corona-virus update of this week, we look at food & beverage brands who have adapted successfully to Covid-19. In the US, COVID travel restrictions still complicate Californian farm shipments, while Florida Congressman Ted Yoho has sent a letter to president Trump, asking the White House to "invoke a 'force majeure' motion to stop the importation of all Mexican, Central American, and South American food products.

The supply of vegetables in Malaysia's Klang Valley and in several neighbouring states has been hit by the temporary closure of several wholesale and big markets, while a shortage of cardboard boxes is troubling Kashmir cherry growers. Also in Kashmir, the lockdown has badly hit apple growers. In the Indian capital, the wholesale markets are dealing with a gradual disruption in the supply of fruits and vegetables, which is set to send retail prices soaring.

Zimbabwe’s farmers turn to social media as a new strategy to sell their produce while, the world over, beekeepers are keeping food production going despite all kinds of lockdown measures.

This news and more as we go into this first May weekend.

Food & Beverage brands that have adapted to Covid-19
As COVID-19 has changed the business landscape, and global lockdowns have forced brands to adapt to an online business model whether they were ready or not, brands around the world have been rethinking their entire business model and product offering.  

Although there were failures, there were many success stories too. The sector that surprised everyone the most was food & beverage. In this article, we will be looking at food & beverage brands who adapted to Covid-19. And, as we are a Belgian marketing agency, we are shining some light on our very own Belgian food & beverage brands. How did these brands adapt to the Covid-19 business landscape? How was their marketing innovative and what can we learn from them?

Food & Beverage Trends
While some practiced austerity, we also saw an increase in the purchases of nostalgic and indulgent foods. These included chocolates, wines and beers.  And of course, all this stress, lockdown chomping and lack of exercise, led to an influx of social media posts about weight gain.

Click here for the full article.

COVID travel restrictions complicate Californian farm shipments
Border closings by some countries and travel restrictions meant to curb spread of the novel coronavirus have created less belly capacity on passenger airplanes to carry highly perishable cargo, a concern for California agricultural exporters as the season for export crops such as cherries approaches.

Though vegetables are the more common California farm export going by air this time of year, Chris Connell, president of Los Angeles-based Commodity Forwarders, said agricultural exporters will soon move into the peak season for air cargo as berries and cherries are lifted to key export markets in Asia.

“If I was an agricultural shipper right now, of course I’d be very concerned,” said Brandon Fried, executive director of the Airforwarders Association in Washington, D.C.

Transporting cargo to China and Korea via air has already been made more difficult since February, due to reduced flights as efforts to contain the virus ramped up, Connell said.

Now, with flight reductions expanded for Italy and the rest of Europe, as well as for Australia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East, Connell said perishable cargo such as fruits, vegetables, flowers, meats and dairy products will increasingly compete for space on aircraft with other commodities and express shipments.

Yoho asks president Trump to halt all agri imports from Mexico, Central America, South America
Florida Congressman Ted S. Yoho has sent a letter to president Trump on behalf of America's farmers and ranchers. In these unprecedented times, farm revenues have seen a major decline due to the coronavirus pandemic. Congressman Yoho has asked that the White House, "invoke a 'force majeure' motion to stop the importation of all Mexican, Central American, and South American food products during this pandemic to support our nation’s farmers and ranchers. The halt on food imports should include fresh fruit, vegetable, dairy, and meat products."

Congressman Yoho feels that at this critical juncture in American agriculture, extraordinary measures should be taken to help preserve America’s food producers.

Currently, America has a glut of products within our borders, and as Congressman Yoho states in his letter below, “our farmers are having to plow up their harvest-ready crops because of a market collapse and factors outside of their control. Foreign agricultural products should not continue to be imported. This is not sound economic or agricultural policy.”

Click here to read the full letter               

Supply of vegetables hit Malaysia's Klang Valley - main wholesale market disrupted
The supply of vegetables in the Klang Valley and in several neighbouring states has been hit by the temporary closure of several wholesale and big markets in KL and Selangor for health checks and cleansing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Malaysia's largest wholesalers' market, Pasar Borong Kuala Lumpur, was shut last week after some workers were found carrying the Covid-19 disease.

The market supplies fresh vegetables to wet market traders, sundry shops, convenience stores and some hypermarkets in the Klang Valley, Negeri Sembilan and the Pahang state capital Kuantan. The vegetables are mostly grown locally including those from Cameron Highlands.

Vegetable wholesalers are facing a conundrum brought on by the Covid-19 crisis as direct demand for their produce falls amid fears of infection following the lockdown of the area surrounding the Selayang wholesale market in Kuala Lumpur.

Cardboard box shortage troubles Kashmir cherry growers
Kashmir grower Ali Mohammad Bhat of Tangmarg is looking at a bumper cherry crop. Hit by crop failures previously, Bhat had trodden cautiously this time using better quality pesticides to ensure disease-free produce. For the last one month, he is spending sleepless nights as cherries are ready to be harvested but markets are closed due to the lockdown.

Coupled with a shortage of packaging boxes, Bhat is now in a fix whether to harvest the crop or buy some more time. “This year the climate was good.  We did not suffer any loss due to climatic conditions. However, transporting cherries is a problem because everything is shut due to lockdown,” he said.

Cherry is the first crop of fruit season and its harvesting begins from the first week of May. Kashmir produces 12000-13000 metric tonnes of cherry every year. Most of the cherries are exported to Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, and other cities.

Growers and dealers claim lockdown and dearth of the packaging material are likely to disturb their harvesting schedule this year.

Bashir Ahmad Basheer, President of Parimpora Fruit Mandi said there is a huge shortage of packaging boxes because the factories are shut. “Packaging boxes […] are not available in Kashmir. We have many factories but none of them have the raw material for making the boxes. Growers are not sure about harvesting the crop on time,” he said.

Lockdown hits Kashmir apple industry; social media campaign launched
Also in Kashmir, as the nationwide lockdown has badly hit apple growers there, a social media campaign has been launched urging Kashmiris to buy apples. However, asserting that the prices for apples are very high, some locals, questioning the campaign, asked why they should buy the fruit if it dents their pocket.

The farmers had put away nearly 3 mln cartons of high quality premium apple, worth approximately Rs 3.5 bln (€42 mln), in 22 cold storages in the valley in October of last year. They were hoping to sell these when the consumption increased in the month of Ramadan in other parts of the country.

However, the growers are unable to release the product following nationwide lockdown to curtail the spread of Coronavirus. They will incur more loses than the actual value of the product if arrangements were not made by the government for the apples to be transported to other parts of the country.

India: COVID-19 takes the spice out of Wayanad’s ginger farmers
The decision by the federal government to relax restrictions on the farming sector may come as a silver lining for several farmers during the nationwide lockdown. It may — to a certain extent — mitigate the adverse impact of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the agriculture sector.

Life has come to a complete standstill, however, for the approximately 2,000 ginger farmers in north Kerala’s Wayanad district. The farmers are in a predicament, different from what is experienced by other farmers, as they practice reverse agricultural migration. They seasonally migrate to different regions in Karnataka, with each taking about 25 to 250 acres of land on lease every year for ginger cultivation.

Nominal lease rates, lower wages of farm workers, rich soil, availability of large tracts of land and attractive agricultural policies contributed to this flight of ginger farmers from Kerala — known as the land of spices — to Karnataka.

New Delhi vegetables prices may soar as sealing of borders chokes supply
Delhi’s wholesale markets are dealing with a gradual disruption in the supply of fruits and vegetables, which is set to send retail prices soaring, as neighbouring states have sealed borders with the capital.

Even as the nation heads towards possible conditional and phased relaxation of lockdown curbs after May 3, Haryana’s Faridabad sealed its borders on Wednesday while Gurugram will close up from Friday morning. Uttar Pradesh’s Gautam Budh Nagar and Ghaziabad had sealed their borders last week.

According to the data shared by the agriculture produce market committee (APMC), the three major markets in Delhi — Azadpur, Ghazipur and Okhla — have recorded a 25-40% drop in fresh stocks of fruits and vegetables, including bottle gourd, ridged gourd, brinjal, okra, coriander leaves, cucumber, musk melon and water melon, at a point that is considered the start of the season.

Zimbabwe’s farmers turn to social media
Since Zimbabwe started lockdown measures on 30 March, farmers have been struggling to sell their produce. With restaurants closed and people staying away from markets, tonnes of tomatoes, avocados and other fruit and veg have been rotting in piles across the country. Since COVID-19, many farmers have recorded losses of thousands of dollars.

Some, however, have adopted new strategies to sell their produce. In the past few weeks, marketing posters have increasingly been popping up across social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp advertising direct home deliveries. From about $5 to $20, depending on the combination and number of vegetables, Zimbabweans trying to avoid infection from coronavirus can get farmers to bring food straight to their door.

Beekeepers are keeping food production going despite lockdown
As you enjoy crisp English apples over the coming months, local blueberries or tomatoes from Kent, give thanks to bees and beekeepers. Without their extraordinary – and largely unnoticed – efforts, supplies of fresh fruit, vegetables and nuts would be at risk due to measures to slow the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s a side effect of the crisis few of us consider. We know bees are vital to pollinate crops; an estimated one-third of the food we eat depends on it. But what’s not widely appreciated is the crucial role beekeepers and commercial pollinators play in food production around the world. There are rarely sufficient bees in the environment to pollinate commercial quantities of crops, so nature needs a helping hand.

In California, almond growers truck in most of the bees in the US to pollinate their crops each spring. And in the UK, up to 30,000 bee colonies, each containing 30,000 insects, are transported to fruit and vegetable growers across the nation to do the job.

Thai fruit growers are banking on various online platforms
Thailand’s Commerce Ministry is teaming up with seven leading online platforms to sell premium-grade fruit, the latest attempt to help farmers dispose of produce during the harvest season. According to Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit, the online channel will help fruit growers to drain their output now that several orchards are unable to export their produce because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The latest scheme enables local consumers to buy export-grade fruits such as mango, durian, mangosteen, longan and lychee. The participating online platforms are Thailandpostmart, Shopee, Lazada, JD Central, Jatujakmall, Cloudmall and The Hub Thailand.

Mr Jurin said the ministry expects to draw more than 50 groups of farmers, cooperatives, community enterprises and exporters to participate in the online sales scheme.

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