Fruit and Vegetables

How is COVID-19 affecting fruit and veg availability and access?

Tracking the pandemic’s impact on the UK’s fruit and vegetable supply chains means following the affordability and accessibility of fruit and veg, as well as labour supply and the quality of jobs in horticulture. We’ll be monitoring movement in these areas and watching in real-time as COVID-19 shapes the future of British horticulture.

Return to our homepage to view the COVID-19 Tracker in full.

Herb sales soar

Waitrose has reported a surge in the popularity of fresh herbs. The supermarket says both pre-cut and potted options have seen an uplift, with sales up 16% year on year perhaps as a result of consumers cooking and preparing more meals from home during the Covid crisis.  Potted coriander saw the most significant growth, with a sales increase of 52% compared to last year. Over the last three months cut herbs have also seen an increase, up 11% against the same period last year. Basil saw the largest growth, with sales up 40%, followed by coriander up 35%. On, searches for ‘fresh herbs’ over the last three months were up 162% compared to last year and ‘potted fresh herbs’ up 175%.   

Morrisons cut fruit and veg prices

Morrisons is cutting the price of 400 of its most popular food items, including fruit and vegetables. The supermarket said it is making the move, which will see prices dropped by an average of 23%, to ensure good food is affordable for families at a time budgets are under pressure. Discounts include round lettuce down by 20p to 45p, 6p off a 2.5kg bag of baking potatoes making it £1.39 and 41p off a six-pack of Granny Smith apples making it £1.19.  

Why urban farming should flourish post pandemic

Dan Evans, senior research associate in physical geography, and Jess Davies, chair professor in sustainability at Lancaster University, have outlined why fruit and veg production in towns and cities must become a central theme going forward 

They reflect on the increase in interest in gardening since lockdown as shown by seed packets flying off shelves and allotment waiting lists swelling. They suggest that the fear of food shortages will have motivated some, but others with more time on their hands at home will have been tempted by the chance to relieve stress doing a wholesome family activity. They outline four reasons why food growing should become a perennial feature in our gardens, towns and cities after COVID-19: 

  1. Growing greener towns and cities
  2. Resilient food supplies
  3. Healthier lives
  4. Healthier ecosystems

They say “All these reasons and more should compel us to scale up food production in towns in cities. COVID-19 has given us cause to re-evaluate how important local urban green spaces are to us, and what we want from our high streets, parks and pavements. Judging by the garden centre sales, allotment lists and social media, many people have decided they want more fruit and veggies in those spaces. The opportunity is there for urban planners and developers to consider what bringing farming to urban landscapes could offer.” 

Food Foundation analysis: fruit and vegetable prices

The most recent data from the Agricultural Prices Index shows that the increase in prices received by fruit farmers between January and April has reversed and that fruit prices being paid at the farm gate have gone down, although they are still higher than the prices being received at the same time last year. Prices received by vegetable farmers have remained fairly static, although up slightly.  

Experiences of Fruit and Veg access

During July we collected nearly 100 people’s stories from across the UK of accessing fruit and veg during the pandemic. Here is one person’s experience:

“I have been shielding so access to food generally was terrible in the early days. Specifically, fruit and veg, I found a local farm doing home delivery a few weeks into lockdown. It was expensive though. Then I managed to grab Iceland home delivery and got frozen greens and berries. Now we can travel in Wales I have had lovely fruit and veg at an affordable price from Abergavenny Market. I have continued with Iceland for frozen veg and berries as they were the only stores who had delivery slots and I went to continue to give them my custom. I will continue to visit the market too.” 

This story was collected as part of the Peas Please initiative’s Covid-19 work. A summary report on how citizens have experienced accessing veg during Covid-19 is coming soon. 

Experiences of Fruit and Veg access

During July we collected nearly 100 people’s stories from across the UK of accessing fruit and veg during the pandemic. Here is one person’s experience: 

“I have been shielding for the duration so far due to being in the clinically extremely vulnerable patient group. This has meant I’ve had to rely on supermarket deliveries when usually I would purchase fresh fruit and veg in independent greengrocers. Ordinarily I select fruit and veg with minimal or no packaging and buy in season produce as much as possible but my ability to do this has been affected by being shielding and also by my income being reduced as a result of COVID-19. The fruit and veg I was able to get from the supermarket has been of lower amounts, quality and variety than usual. I managed to get on a wait list for a local veg box scheme and finally started getting deliveries in June which has made a huge difference to the quantity and quality of the fresh fruit and veg in my diet and has improved my general well being too. It’s a shame I could not access that sooner but I am happy I now have this reliably.” 

This story was collected as part of the Peas Please initiative’s Covid-19 work. A summary report on how citizens have experienced accessing veg during Covid-19 is coming soon. 

Europe’s Fruit Growers Prepare for Tough Harvest

EU growers are preparing for summer and autumn harvests of apples, pears and grapes but many fear resurgent outbreaks of Covid-19 and a return to localized lockdowns – increasing the likelihood that migrant workers will be unable to help with the harvest. 
Daniel Sauvaitre, head of a French Apple and Pear Association says “We are worried. We had the manpower we needed for the thinning work in orchards, and the harvest looks pretty good. But we may very well have a country that’s closing again.” 
Covid-19 cases among agricultural workers, including on some fruit farms in southern France, are adding to concerns. This was highlighted when more than 70 workers, who were picking and packing vegetables, tested positive at a farm in Herefordshire earlier this month.

Tesco extends improved payment terms

Tesco is extending its improved payment terms scheme for its smaller suppliers until 31 January 2021. 
The initiative was brought in to assist small suppliers at the start of the Covid-19 crisis and the extension means that 2,000 suppliers will continue to have their invoices paid immediately, instead of after 14 days. 
Tesco claims the extension has been put in place to ensure suppliers are supported throughout the busy Christmas period and beyond. It will be interesting to see whether these improved payment terms endure beyond Covid-19. 

Free grocery delivery for amazon prime customers

Amazon has moved into the grocery market in the UK. Amazon Prime members will get unlimited free grocery deliveries, starting in London and expanding across the UK by the end of the year. Free delivery of Amazon Fresh products – including fresh produce – will be made available to Prime members in two-hour windows on orders over £40. Amazon say the free grocery delivery service would be rolled out to millions of Prime members across the country by the end of the year.