The coronavirus has a firm grip on the world. While the food supply is still sufficiently secured, many catering suppliers are facing the end of their supplies and producers (cooperatives) are worried about the next harvest. Seasonal workers no longer want to travel in the face of the pandemic, and even if they did, many borders have been closed. These are problems that trade players still have to deal with at present, in addition to the already particularly hectic daily routine. We spoke with Florian Wolz from the Franken-Gemüse Knoblauchsland producer cooperative in Nuremberg.
"The next crisis we are facing is the seasonal workers. However, in order to be able to deal with this topic, we must first of all clarify the daily business. Therefore I am working on a plan for a situation-related normal course of events, which must now be found. Hopefully we will get through the next four to five weeks with this plan," says Wolz.
High demand and shortage
Although some growers deal with their produce being destroyed since the demand has disappeared, for Florian the situation is different. He explains how a major hurdle in this process is the high demand and a possible shortage: "We can still deliver without problems, but if there is a shortage, the employees must be prepared to divide the "volumes accordingly."
At present, the quantitative fluctuations are still very significant, which has a negative effect on the even supply of fruit and vegetables. "Here, too, the goal is normal operation. Even in this crisis situation, the quantities must be coordinated so that everyone is supplied. Everyone gets his share. It simply requires mutual understanding."
Of course, shortages must be avoided: "As a producer organization, we can already see roughly how big production will be. Fortunately, in some farms the workers are already on site. The next wave will be in mid-April and then we'll be able to produce larger quantities." This will be followed by the outdoor farms until early May. "We must somehow manage to have enough helpers to harvest and replant by then." In the worst case, the harvest would have to be at a reduced level.
Closure of the restaurants business
But he doesn't want to worry so far: "I have my produce every day and I sell it too. The biggest impact on quantity will be the closure of the restaurant business. Private individuals have different eating habits and buy from some products, such as cucumbers and tomatoes, more than the per capita demand in the catering trade would be". Moreover, the total range of products for private individuals is smaller. In restaurants, for example, many different types of vegetables are used for a salad, this is hardly ever done privately, and simpler dishes are prepared. "Consumption is moving towards products that are easy and quick to process."
Hoarding is less of a problem here because fresh vegetables don't last as long. "We are seeing that the excess quantities that are going through the grocery store right now are almost covering the losses of out-of-home consumption. The grocery store has a 20% increase in demand, typically the food service industry accounts for 16-20% of the market - the circle is closing again."
Wolz also appeals to retailers to suspend their advertising plans for the coming weeks: "We are in an exceptional situation here. You can't plan promotions for fruit and vegetables. The focus should be on supplying everyone with enough and not on undercutting prices.
However it will continue with the coronavirus in Germany and the effects on trade, the hectic and panic is not sustainable. The situation must level off and then we should concentrate on the shortage of seasonal workers, Wolz believes. His proposal is therefore pragmatic: "We hope that perhaps workers from other economic sectors can help in vegetable growing. Many people are currently losing their incomes and so both sides would be helped."