The UK fresh food industry posted little to no growth in 2012 as the economy showed little signs of recovery.
Some fresh food products prospered, as consumers looked to them as a cheaper source of nutrition and energy available in more expensive foodstuffs bought in non-recessionary times, although staple products, such as potatoes and most vegetables, either declined or showed minimal growth.
Over the last 10 years the supply of fruit and vegetables into the UK market place has increased significantly reflecting an increase in consumption. However, this increase has been sustained through greater volumes of imports rather than through domestic production; in fact over this period we have seen a decline in domestic vegetable production.
The UK supply structure for fresh produce is relatively short typically involving 2 to 4 parties from field to plate. However, the market in terms of product lines and number of individual supply chains is complex.
Meat and crustaceans were just two of the categories negatively affected by rising commodity prices in 2012. The former suffered from rising feed prices, due to soaring wheat and soya costs after poor global harvests, while the latter was affected by increased flooding.
This created tension between retailers, which want to keep their prices as low as possible in relation to their rivals, and producers, which want to increase prices to cover their costs. Commodity fluctuations are becoming a serious issue for the UK fresh food industry and while there are some moves to mitigate and insulate from them, there are no easy answers.
Poor summer weather due to increased rainfall in 2012 was a harbinger of things to come as the effects of climate change intensify both in the UK and across the globe.
With the UK fresh food industry increasingly unable to rely on the supply chain mechanisms it has used over the last thirty years, increasing instability in the availability of some fresh food produce is to be expected, with retailers and producers increasingly having to alter their business plans in order to deal with the fluctuating weather conditions.
For more information on the UK fresh food industry, see the latest research: UK Fresh Food Industry
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