Fruit and Vegetables

What is impacting the amount of Fruit and Veg eaten and grown in the UK?

Fruit and Veg consumption is the biggest marker of dietary inequality, with the rich eating more than the poor. With consumption persistently below recommended levels even before Covid-19 and Brexit, we look at these and other food system shocks to explore how they are impacting both consumption and production. We know that levels of production, especially of vegetables, have been declining in the UK and that the sector perhaps hasn’t had the support it requires to flourish. We’ll explore what needs to happen to support the sector to deliver environmental benefits and contribute to increasing consumption. On top of this we’ll share people’s experiences of accessing fruit and vegetables to better inform how to improve things for both people and planet.

View our UK Food Tracker in full

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.

CASE STUDY: supplying fresh fruit and veg to West Yorkshire during Covid-19

In May, Rethink Food, a charity working to empower people to live food secure lives, was awarded £90,000 in funding from DEFRA as part of the government’s fund targeted at providing food for those struggling during Covid-19. With the focus of emergency food aid often on food and energy provision rather than nutrition, RethinK Food worked to ensure vulnerable groups were still able to include fruit and veg in their diets. Over 9 weeks these funds have been used to buy fresh fruit and veg to support families and individuals from across the West Yorkshire region. To support more resilient local food economies, all food was sourced from a local supplier in Leeds, with a range of of seasonal produce purchased including; potatoes, apples, broccoli, grapes, peppers, carrots, satsumas, courgettes, bananas and aubergine. In addition to receiving the food, all recipients were signposted to
entry level instructional video clips to demonstrate how the fruit and veg could be prepared as part of a meal. As a result:  

  • 75 schools across Leeds and Bradford have received weekly donations of food (7.5 tonnes per week) 
  • Each school then supports targeted families within their own school community. 
  • 14 community groups have received food. These donations have been used to provide meals to vulnerable members of the local community each week (3.2 tonnes per week) 
  • 1.5 tonnes per week is being delivered to Leeds City Council central food distribution warehouse where it is being used to make up food parcels for vulnerable citizens. 
  • During the summer holidays, 30 Healthy Holiday clubs will receive food donations to help feed children accessing their provision. 

Here’s what some of the recipients of the food have said in response to this work“I’d just like to say a massive thank you for the delivery of fruit and vegetables today. I was really humbled by the amount and families were grateful and thrilled. Thank you so much.”
“Huge thanks for our delivery of food for our community. Lots of happy families this afternoon.”
“The fresh fruit and veg will help us nourish our community, thank you”.  

A full evaluation will be available at the end of August 

Covid-19 outbreak on veg farm forces quarantine

Up to 200 seasonal workers in Herefordshire have gone into quarantine on a bean and broccoli farm after 73 tested positive for Covid-19. Herefordshire Council said it believes the outbreak has been contained on the farm. The workers are being treated as one ‘extended bubble’ and are staying within household groups in separate mobile homes. Public Health England advises that it is very unlikely Covid-19 can be transmitted through food or food packaging, so the virus is unlikely to spread via the vegetables. 

Sustain campaign backs the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme 

Sustain has launched a new campaign to urge government to re-start the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme that was paused due to Coronavirus. They are asking people to sign a petition calling on the Secretary of State for Education, Secretary of State for Health and Minister of State for Schools to reinstate and expand the scheme to all children in primary school and to source high standard British produce.