When the situation around the coronavirus escalated about 2.5 weeks ago, consumers started panic buying and retail demand exploded as a result. “All areas within the fresh produce supply chain felt the surge in demand during the first week to ten days,” says Ray Wowryk with Nature Fresh Farms. “This has leveled off now with pipelines for major retailers being filled, but I would anticipate we will see another surge as consumers will soon have eaten the fresh fruits and vegetables they purchased in the past week.” However, there is also the uncertainty how shopping patterns will develop in the weeks to come. “It is too early to determine, but the economic impact on immediate disposable income will affect demand overall, and it will vary from one major market to the next,” he said.
Demand from foodservice on the other hand has tanked. Nature Fresh Farms has a number of medium-sized wholesale clients who have been greatly impacted by the closures of restaurants, schools and businesses. “Several of these wholesalers have had to lay off staff and close their doors in the short-term in hope of being able to return to normal operations when the demand comes back.”
No interruption of supply
On the supply side, the company is in good shape. Greenhouse tomatoes are available year-round from the company’s farm in Ohio and their growing partners in Mexico. In addition, the Ontario greenhouse season is starting up. “We have been able to manage the increased demand will with no interruption of supply and service to our retail customers.” Availability of fresh produce is key, but so is packaging material. “We haven’t experienced any disruption in packaging material supplies,” mentioned Wowryk. However, we must keep in mind that with the start of Canadian production, our facilities magnified packaging in advance and those supplies came in several weeks ago.”
Trucking companies are key partners
Logistics are challenging right now, but Nature Fresh Farms is committed to having the freshest produce possible on store shelves. The increase in demand in combination with the measures taken to stop the spread have caused a shortage of equipment in primary shipping points. “We have a strong network of trucking companies that service our needs year-round and they have stepped up to assist in dealing with the surge in demand. They are key partners in filling the needs of our customers during these unprecedented times. We are thankful for the great support staff who have been there for us to continue supplying our customer base. All our team members at our farms, along with our distribution warehouses, are working hard in maintaining the supply chain to our customers.”