South Africa is under lockdown and numbers from the fresh produce markets foretell a worrying tale.
According to Paul Makhube of FNB, price and volume trends on major fresh produce markets showed a decline across both vegetable and fruit commodities in last week’s trade.
“The combination of strong uptake and higher volumes of supplies weighed heavily on the vegetable markets, except for potatoes that managed a 1.9% week-on-week (w/w) increase to R3.45/ kg, which is 1.5% ahead of last year,” said Makhube.
The market trade data showed that the biggest losers in the fresh produce markets were tomatoes and lettuce, with weekly decreases of 34% and 18% w/w respectively, still down by 32% and 30% year-on-year (y/y) at R5.14/ kg and 9.65/ kg.
On the fruit side, it was a similar trend. Pears and avocados were the biggest losers closing down during the week at 13% and 11% respectively.
“The local supply outlook for both fruit and vegetable commodities remains bullish and it is expected that price pressures will persist for a bit longer,” said Makhube.
Agro-food retail chains were also finding the going tough with empty shelves stretching the laws of supply and demand.
Shoprite CEO Pieter Engelbrecht said that customers can be assured that they working with suppliers locally and across the globe to track and monitor orders and shipments to make the necessary provision for the current increase in consumer demand in sanitary, hygiene and baby products, dry pasta, UHT milk and some tinned vegetables.
The agro-food value chains were part of a cohort classified under essential goods and services as defined in the Disaster Management Act.
Estimates also indicate that those dependent on fresh produce markets for income such as smallholder farmers would stand to lose greatly under the lockdown.
“Fresh produce can accumulate without being sold, leading to food losses, while those who grow it will also lose income,” said Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Chief Economist Maximo Terero Cullen.
Under these circumstances, the FAO advised developing countries governments to procure agricultural products from small farmers and food vendors.
This is in order to alleviate the burden of the expected loss of income.