Christopher Hutchinson - New Spitalfields Market

“The hospitality sector has shut down again, but our traders are very versatile"

As London and most of the South East of the UK went back into lockdown on Sunday, London’s fruit and veg traders had to cope with the loss of the food service trade again.

The lock down was sudden but not unexpected. “It was no more sudden that the last one but the news of this new strain of Covid has only been in the news for a few days,” says Christopher Hutchinson, Tenants Association at New Spitalfields Market. “The hospitality sector has shut down again, but our traders are very versatile, and this is one of the strengths of this wholesale market. Although the high streets have seen many changes over the last 40 years, there are still over 100 street markets in London and many small independent retailers and grocers who have seen a big increase in demand this year. Our traders also supply schools, hospitals, prisons etc. so we remain positive.

“There are traders who are finding it very difficult, those who supplied only food service companies are struggling but some are managing to hang on in there by supplying veg boxes direct to the consumer, this is more time consuming and less profitable than food service but it is keeping them going for now.”

The veg box was very popular during the first lock down when the supermarket home delivery services were overwhelmed, but there is less demand as time goes on and the supermarkets have increased deliveries.

“Today’s supplies were normal as there has been a lot queuing up at the ports, and still is. The closing of the French border will be seen very quickly though, there is a phenomenal amount of traffic which goes through the channel tunnel so even if the ferries are running the capacity is not there.”

New Spittalfield Market receives a huge amount lorries every day which deliver supplies which last 24-48 hours so the shortfall will become apparent very quickly, especially if the ban is extended past the 48 hours.

“We are already hearing that the products most affected are cauliflower, broccoli and salads. But what a lot of people forget is that we grow very good produce here in the UK too. When I hear people blame the British farmer for not working hard enough and just taking EU pay-outs it makes me mad. We can’t grow everything but what we do grow is fantastic quality and is readily available this Christmas.”

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