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Coronavirus: Difficulties in the fruit and vegetable markets caused by quarantine

The international market for fruits and vegetables is changing under the influence of the spread of coronavirus and quarantine measures in many countries.

Manufacturers expect that logistic restrictions imposed to combat the virus are likely to affect the availability of some agricultural resources, such as fertilizers and agrochemicals, as well as agricultural machinery and equipment components. Difficulties in attracting seasonal workers to harvest and other adverse effects are possible. FruitNews provides an overview of reports on the impact of coronavirus on the fruit and vegetable industry, citing Freshplaza and FreshFruitPortal.

In China, at the very beginning of the epidemic, an outbreak of coronavirus had a major impact on fruit and vegetable producers. On the one hand, the supply and receipt of raw materials were blocked for some companies. On the other hand, in some areas vegetables and fruits accumulated and spoiled. Due to the deficit and additional costs for harvesting, transportation, and wholesale trade, which grew due to the epidemic, the prices of some products rose to peak values. In response, a number of agricultural companies decided to publicly support public policy. Major suppliers like Lankuaikei Agriculture Development Co. Ltd (Shanghai) and Cau Futong Co. Ltd (Hebei) offered assistance by guaranteeing the supply of fruits and vegetables. The market began to recover. As a result, the price of pepper stopped at about 8 yuan ($ 1.15) per 0.5 kg, the price for 0.5 kg of tomatoes is 5 yuan ($ 0.72), and for 0.5 cucumbers – 5 yuan ($ 0.72), that is, about the same level as in the previous year. Many wholesale agricultural markets have resumed their activities, and the number of active trading companies is increasing. The exceptions are wholesale markets in the most affected areas of Hubei Province, as well as companies that are still in quarantine. More than 95% of the leaders of the largest horticultural and processing enterprises resumed their activities.

Due to the situation with coronavirus, many mass events, in particular conferences and exhibitions devoted to agriculture, are canceled. For example, the International symposium on strawberry cultivation in northern Italy, Viva Fresh Expo in Texas, the World Berry Congress in Rotterdam, Foodex in Japan, the EMPACK 2020 exhibition in the Netherlands, the IBA (International Blackcurrant Association) 2020 conference in Ukraine and many others were canceled.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has decided to suspend inspections of foreign products until April because of the risk of COVID-19 infection. As explained by the FDA, conducting critical inspections will be considered on an individual basis. The FDA explained that in cases where the Office is temporarily unable to inspect foreign-made products, “additional tools” are used as a temporary measure. These additional measures include a ban on the import of unsafe products, a physical examination, sampling of products when crossing the US border, and studying the history of FDA compliance by the company earlier. The Office will continue to work with the US Customs and Border Guard to identify products that do not meet regulatory requirements. The FDA plans to use the Import Screening Tool (PREDICT) to research imported products.

Australia is concerned about the impact of the coronavirus situation on the citrus market. According to Nathan Hancock, CEO of Citrus Australia, demand in markets such as China remains high, but logistics problems may arise due to reduced flights. In addition, the history of coronavirus will affect the arrival of seasonal workers. Therefore, the company recommends that all manufacturers prepare a contingency plan in case of an unforeseen situation in order to minimize risks during harvesting and the absence of workers.

However, there is good news. Research firm Nielsen believes the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) could boost consumer demand for local products. According to representatives of the company’s press service, “the crisis conditions and concerns about the origin of products and their ingredients will contribute to increased demand for products from local suppliers.” Among consumers surveyed by Nielsen experts in Italy, India, Thailand, the Philippines, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and the United States, local products are already preferred.

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