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.

Food Foundation analysis: fruit and vegetable prices

The Agricultural Prices Index, a monthly government publication that reflects the price farmers receive for their products, also referred to as farm gate price, shows that there have been some increases in the prices received by fruit farmers between January and April and compared to the same months last year. However, prices received by vegetable farmers have barely changed over the same time period or compared to last year. This is despite large increases in costs being reported as a result of social distancing measures and costs of recruitment. 

Have a look at our data visualisations here.

Huge rise in farm shops sales

Research by the Farm Retail Association (FRA) has found that 92% of farm retailers reported a significant rise in new customers since lockdown rules began in March. They estimate that the UK’s network of farm shops now has a combined turnover of more than £1.5bn, including sales from farm shop cafés. Part of the reason for success, they claim, is that farm shops have regularly replenished shelves to establish themselves as reliable local food providers and provided calm environments with easy-to-follow social distancing measures as well as new online ordering services. Around 79% of farm retailers said they had introduced a click-and-collect service because of coronavirus and 67% said they had introduced home deliveries. As a result, farm shops across the UK have processed an estimated 1.4 million or more orders for home delivery or collection since the government’s lockdown measures began.


Only 19% of thousands signing up for Feed the Nation jobs are committing to interview

Only 19% of the thousands of people signing up for Feed the Nation jobs are committing to an interview. Recruitment agencies HOPS, Concordia and Fruitful jobs who formed an alliance for the Feed the Nation campaign, which is linked to the government backed Pick for Britain campaign, report that although thousands of people have come forward and expressed an interest, only 19% have committed to an interview. They suggest this is to do with a reluctance for UK workers to relocate from their homes for a four to six month seasonal job.

Massive decrease in fruit and vegetable intake reported by children receiving free school meals following lockdown

A massive decrease in fruit and vegetable intake has been reported by children receiving free school meals under lockdown. Preliminary findings of a detailed study of 60 nine-to-twelve-year-olds in London and the North East of England by Northumbria University’s Healthy Living Lab shows a significant decrease in the amount of fruit children have been eating. Before school closures they ate, on average, just over one portion of fruit per day. During the three-day reporting period during lockdown, almost half of the children (45%) said they hadn’t eaten any fruit, with the remaining children eating an average of half a portion of fruit per day.

Similar results were seen in the children’s responses on the amount of vegetables they had eaten. More than half of the children (55%) said they had not eaten any fresh vegetables during the three days during lockdown. The mean vegetable intake dropped from just over two portions per day when children were attending school, to an average of half a portion per day at home.

However, a four-fold increase was reported in the amount of sugar-sweetened drinks consumed, together with a substantial rise in the amount of crisps, chocolates and sweets being eaten. Children’s consumption of unhealthy snacks increased from an average of one over the three days when they were at school to six portions across three days at home during lockdown.

New paper by University of York researchers highlights vulnerabilities in the fruit and veg supply system

A new paper from researchers at the University of York highlights vulnerabilities in the fruit and veg supply system. The authors particularly highlight the Straits of Dover as a potential bottleneck to supply. 84% of the UK’s fresh fruit is imported and around half of all veg: the UK is highly dependent on Spain and the Netherlands for the majority of its fresh vegetable imports, and relies on the Straits of Dover for bringing much of this in. Of imported fruit and veg, 81% of apples and oranges, 77% of strawberries and raspberries, 83% of lettuces, 74% of cauliflower and 67% of tomatoes come through the Dover Straits. The authors argue this potentially leaves UK supply vulnerable to shortages if there were any disruption to ferry or freight routes.

Seasonal veg push launched

A nationwide appeal has been launched by Veg Power to get the UK eating more seasonal vegetables and supporting food producers.

The #SeasonalVeg campaign is supported, among others, by chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, SORTEDfood, children’s food author Amanda Grant, and Defra. It aims to swing people’s choice towards the veg coming into season, support frontline food workers bringing crops to consumers’ tables, and reduce the risk of food waste during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Veg Power stresses that buying seasonal vegetables means people across the UK can support local farmers and the national food supply chain, support a healthy diet and help boost immunity, and enjoy the great taste of seasonal vegetables, which are often cheaper.

Each week a different vegetable will be promoted, starting with asparagus on June 1st and followed by cucumber, mushrooms, leafy salads, courgette, spinach, tomatoes, radish, and finally beetroot on July 27th.

Increasing demand for Greek fruit and veg during coronavirus

Greek fruit and vegetable exporters are experiencing increased sales due to the impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak. This is thought to be partly based on Greece’s effective measures to contain the virus, but also on some lower harvests in Italy and Spain due to a combination of unfavourable weather conditions and labour shortages.

According to the CEO of market intelligence company Tridge, “the effects of Covid-19 have been felt around the world, and many buyers are seeking alternative suppliers to meet the consumer demand for safer and healthier products. Aside from the impacts of the pandemic, weather conditions can also significantly impact a harvest season, meaning that buyers need more options when sourcing suppliers.”

Spain’s fruit and veg exports up overall but shorter shelf life produce down

Despite the pandemic, Spanish global exports of fresh fruit and vegetables grew overall by 3.6% in volume and 12% in value in March compared to the same period last year. although cabbage exports grew in volume by 5.5% and 14% by value. Despite the fact that overall exports grew, there have been winners and losers, perhaps indicating a shift in demand away from more perishable fruit and veg. There was a rise in top fruit exports, with apples up 47% in volume but a fall in exported volume of strawberries (3.4%), tomatoes (15%), peppers (5%) and lettuce (9%). According to the most up to date Defra Stats the UK currently imports 31% of its veg and 21% of its fruit from Spain.