At the beginning of this week, a renewed lockdown came into effect in Austria. A hard decision for the economy, and for the fruit industry there as well. The emergency measures have partly disastrous consequences for suppliers at the Vienna wholesale market Inzersdorf. A large proportion of the wholesale market traders make a living from the local gastronomers and community catering, which is sales segment that is hit hardest.
"We are still here, but we are selling very little," says restaurant wholesaler Thomas Herzog, summing up the situation. Over 90 percent of his clientele is made up by the restaurant and hotel industry. "As a supplier, we unfortunately do not receive any state support and there has been no talk of renting the stand space at a reduced rate so far either."
Alternative marketing forms difficult to implement
During the first lockdown, the family business tried its hand at supplying private households. "However, the logistical effort was too great, which is why this emergency measure was hardly worthwhile for us. That is why we have now discontinued this line of business for the time being. Neither is the supply of retailers for us, as a catering supplier, feasible in the short term."
Those who are still buying from the Herzog company mainly demand standard goods. Herbs - in pre-Corona times a year-round product in the company's range - are hardly in demand. "Sales of herbs have dropped by an estimated 70-80 percent. There are plenty of imported goods: But if we only sell half pallets, the logistics costs and spoilage are too high, as the goods are simply not sold quickly enough."
The experienced trader has never experienced a crisis on this scale before. "We are a steadfast company and we are doing everything in our power to keep our personnel." But Herzog sees bigger problems in the long run. "Will we still get credit insurance in the future? Insurance companies will be very cautious during the crisis. This problem will affect many traditional wholesale companies."
Local and imported herbs: In pre-Corona times a top product in the Herzog Handels range.
Entire market has collapsed
Obst Stelzer, the wholesale market's soft fruit specialist, is also feeling the consequences of the renewed lockdown. "We hardly have any orders for berries and we are observing a decline in sales of 60-70 percent. This trend was already there before the lockdown, but now it has accelerated noticeably," stand manager Franz Schwarz reports.
The well-established trading company offers wholesale customers a wide range of berries of all kinds throughout the year: "At the moment, we mainly rely on imports. Goods are available in sufficient quantities, but there is not enough demand. Accordingly, a large oversupply is hounding the market. Nevertheless, the situation does not seem to have had a major impact on the prices so far. At 5-6 Euro/kg, South American blueberries are in line, while Greek strawberries are around 3-4 Euro/kg."
Franz Schwarz is stand manager for Stelzer at the Vienna Wholesale Market.
At the Vienna wholesale market site, there are currently only a few collecting customers, Schwarz confirms. "At the moment the market has completely collapsed. We now hope that the lockdown will be lifted in early December."