The French have learned new habits during the two months of confinement (farm purchases, e-commerce, deliveries) and are purchasing more organic, fair trade products. Are these purchasing behaviours going to last over time? Olivier Dauvers, a specialist in mass distribution, states in an article published in Terra that “sales at the farm have been multiplied by ten”. For some producers this has been a success, but distribution via these routes only represents 2–3% of the volumes distributed (Reussir, 14 May). Dauvers believes that “the length and severity of containment has profoundly changed habits”. The general manager of the Max Havelaar brand notes that since 2018 the consumption of fair trade products in France has been growing, and has not weakened with the crisis. Agri-Ethique France, created in 2013 and today claiming more than half of the sales of French fair trade products, and has also observed this change in the behaviour of French consumers.
During the containment period, average fruit prices increased by 17.3% (apples, +93%; pears, +30.6%; oranges, +28.4%; lemons, +20.6%; melons, +20.5%; mandarins, +16.7%; grapes, +15%, pineapples, +5%; bananas and grapefruits –1% to –2%), while vegetables increased by 6.3% compared to the same period in 2019 (Fruchthandel, 25 May). Paulina Kopeć of the association Unia Owocowa believes that consumers are favouring fresh fruit and vegetables with a longer shelf life. As a result, sales of apples have more than doubled. According to Karol Kamiński from the DING.pl service, it is possible that this upward trend will be confirmed not only at the retail level but also at the wholesale level. Harvests had already been severely affected by bad weather conditions in 2019. April 2020 not only broke a drought record, but the lack of seasonal workers from Ukraine disrupted the harvest season. The high consumption of apples and pears is believed to be due to the attractiveness of domestic production as prices of imported products were higher due to restrictions on international transport. According to Paweł Soska of O.P.G. Polskie Sady, wholesale market prices are expected to return to normal by the end of May, but probably without immediate effect in retail stores.
According to Kantar Research, independent retailers Spar, Londis and Budgens increased their sales of groceries more than twice as fast as chains like the Coop in the three months leading up to 17 May (FPC Fresh Talk Daily, 1 June). There has been a marked change in buyer behaviour, with small local stores and online sales taking advantage of this period of crisis. Online grocery sales (+75%) grew strongly during April. Nearly one in five households bought online every week. Groceries ordered online represent 11.5% of the market, compared to about 7% before the pandemic, and it is possible that levels of online consumption will continue to grow. Kantar analysts say that online grocery stores “have attracted a new group of customers, especially older people, and we believe that some of them will continue to use online services and enjoy the convenience of home delivery”. Total sales of grocery products increased by 14.3% in the past three months, the highest rate since 1994.
Barrier measures against the spread of the virus have led the French authorities to close restaurants, street markets and canteens (Reussir, 26 May). Producers were the first to be affected by these measures because they no longer had access to their traditional outlets. Thus the distribution chain Intermarché/Netto and the chain of independent retail outlets Les Comptoirs de la Bio created a platform – http://Jaidelesproducteurslocaux.fr – on which local producers and shops could register. By registering their products on the platform, local producers can find buyers through a network of stores (1000 for Intermarché and Netto).
The Spanish national federation of exporters and producers of fruit and vegetables, flowers and plants has announced that in March, the first month of the coronavirus pandemic, Spain exported 1.3 million tonnes of fruit and vegetables (+3.6%) worth €1.6 billion (+12%) compared to March 2019 (Fruchthandel, 25 May). Fruit volumes represented nearly 660,000 tonnes (+10%) and many fruits experienced strong growth, especially citrus; strawberries were an exception at –3.4%; apples were +47%, and pears +5%. Vegetable exports, nearly 670,000 tonnes, decreased slightly (–2%), and products experienced various fluctuations: tomatoes (–15%), peppers (–5%), lettuce (–9%) and cabbages (+5.5%).