It has been a very tough year for fresh produce market traders almost 12 months of lockdowns or partial lockdowns, has meant that the biggest part of their market has been shut down or operating at less than 100%.
“The event and hospitality sectors are shut down again this is the biggest problem. We still have some business as local independent retailers, farm shops and produce stalls have seen more business as people don’t want to go into busy supermarkets to shop. Care homes, hospitals still need supplied and 60% of children are back at school as their parents are key workers,” explains Gary Marshall, Chairman of the Trader’s Association at New Covent Garden Market. “Despite having a very tough time traders are supporting the NHS and hospitals with donations of fresh produce. It still extremely tough.
Photo: New Covent Garden Market
“The situation is not sustainable, but some traders will get through it, some will not. Some have been able to make use of the furlough scheme, but with such a drop in earnings it is difficult to cover expenses. All we can do like everybody else is try to stay positive, stay focussed and do the best we can.”
There are half a million signatures requesting a Hospitality Minister, wholesale markets fall into a category which has not had any help from the government, unlike retail and some parts of the hospitality sector.
The traders at the market are still having to pay full rent for their stands in the market although they are in negotiations to get one month’s rent and service charges back, “We believe that the government should step in and offer us a minimum of a year’s free rent so that we can all get through this together.”
So far only one company has ceased trading, most are managing to limp through.
“Every industry is fighting for its future, everyone is asking the government for help we have just gone through 14 years of litigation battle for the rebuilding of this market so we haven’t got a great desire to start another one.
“I am not sure if people realise the individual struggles of the various industries, we at the market work through the night while people sleep to feed London and the south east as do other traders across the county. We do a very important job but don’t get seen.”
Brexit has made an already tough situation more challenging, there is much more paperwork involved importing fresh produce. “We now have to use clearing agents to get produce in. The biggest problem is with non-EU products, at this time of the year lots of produce is imported via Holland from non-EU countries and is subject to a levy, making it extremely difficult. The main problem when importing is that no one knows exactly what is needed.
“At the end of the day the day we are still here and the market is still open.”