Fredo’s international fresh produce take this week takes us to Europe, England and Australia, and end in India.
On Thursday, 2nd April 2020, Muara Maxwell wrote on fruitnet.com that Spanish stonefruit faced major labour shortages. She writes that tens of thousands of extra workers are needed to harvest the crop, according to the fruit association, Fepex.
“Spain is facing a serious labour shortage as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic that threatens to derail the 2020 stonefruit campaign,” Maxwell writes.
Fepex has mapped out the needs of the sector for the coming months as harvesting begins in different parts of the country. The results show a shortfall of 16,000 workers for April, 18,000 in May, 28,000 in June, 21,000 in July, 28,000 in August and 15,000 in September. An additional 29,000 workers are needed for the onion and garlic season between April and August, Fepex added. Acknowledging the seriousness of the problem facing the sector, Agriculture Minister Luis Planas announced on Wednesday that the government is studying a series of measures that it would announce in the coming days. Looking at ways to recruit more local labour is believed to be one solution being considered.
Planas also recognised the challenges faced by other parts of Spain’s horticultural sector in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, not least the strawberry sector which has seen demand drop by 50 per cent.
The United Kingdom
Meanwhile in the UK the government is being urged to launch an urgent mass public messaging campaign promoting how healthy eating can boost the body’s immune system against the threat of Covid-19.
Writing for the Fresh Produce Journal, in an article headed Fruit and veg ‘should be focus of Covid-19 fight’, Michael Barker says Professors Tim Lang of City, University of London, Erik Millstone of the University of Sussex Business School and Terry Marsden of Cardiff University have written to Defra secretary George Eustice and Duncan Selbie of Public Health England urging that similar importance be given to healthy eating advice as there has been dedicated to social distancing.
The experts warn that the government has ceded too much decision-making on food controls on the supplies and prices of food items to the leading food retailers. Instead, they argue the government should take responsibility for ensuring that foods of highest nutritional and immunological value are available to all, and in particular to the most vulnerable.
News from Down Under
Writing for Asiafruit Chris Komorek report from Hong Kong that the Australian government has announced a new Australian Dollar110m support package, aimed at easing some of the pressure fresh produce exporters have experienced as a result of widespread border closures and the grounding of airfreight services due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Flights departing Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth will be coordinated in order to deliver fresh produce to key markets including China, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.Much needed medical supplies and medicines will be imported via returning flights as part of the programme.
The Australian government has appointed former Toll Holdings managing director and former Linfox chief executive Michael Byrne as its international freight coordinator to oversee the programme. He will work with airlines and exporters. “Necessary public health restrictions are already placing massive pressure on business viability and job security,” said Australian Senator, Simon Birmingham.
“We can’t afford for our farmers, fishers and exporters to be under similar pressure just because they can’t get their goods onto a plane.
On Eurofruit Newsline , Michael Knowles reports that Germany faces fruit and veg shortages
“A lack of seasonal workers due to the coronavirus crisis could lead to a severe shortage of fruit and vegetables in Germany over the next few months,” write Knowles. He writes that Frutania, a leading provider of products including berries, asparagus, apples, pears, stonefruit, tomatoes and vegetables to the major supermarkets, said it saw serious problems ahead in terms of maintaining required volumes in the market after the federal government placed restrictions on foreign seasonal labour entering the country.
“With several products due to be harvested in the coming weeks, the group’s managing director Markus Schneider said Germany faced a major bottleneck not only in 2020 but in years to come. “The companies we work with cannot bring in their crops at the moment and are no longer ordering plants for next year, because the uncertainty of the current situation means they cannot finance advance payments for next year,” he explained. “Imports from neighbouring countries can also not be completely guaranteed.”
Germany’s high dependency on regional supply from April to September could mean consumers see empty shelves in supermarket fruit and vegetable departments, Schneider warned.
In April all roads were supposed to lead to Mumbai in India – for the Fresh Produce India fresh produce event. However, Civid-19 and the regulations introduced by the Indian government have disrupted these plans.
However, the ingenuity of the organisers has ensured that the event will go ahead. It is going to be, for this year only a new way of event management – through a webinar – let’s call it and online conference.
For this year only FRESH PRODUCE INDIA is to be hosted on your handheld mobile device. It’s a first for us in India. It’s a first for the world of fresh produce and it’s FREE to join.
“FRESH PRODUCE INDIA has become India’s annual must-attend conference and expo event for fresh fruits and vegetables. Today’s global crisis of COVID-19 confronts everyone engaged in the fresh produce business in India. And it demands some big changes from us too.”
“That’s why we’re going to livestream FRESH PRODUCE INDIA LIVE on Thursday 23 April 2020. Chris White and John Hey are hosting five sessions of quality insight and ideas for the future of the fresh produce business in India. They’ll be joined by speakers and expert panelists from India and the rest of the world to discuss the challenges that face India today.”
Those who want to participate – please go to the Fresh Produce India website.