Salad produce availability ‘likely to continue to be a significant issue’

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Fresh produce: a number of factors have been impacting fresh and seasonal produce from UK farmers
Fresh produce: a number of factors have been impacting fresh and seasonal produce from UK farmers

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Operators have been warned the availability and high prices of fresh produce such as salad ingredients, are likely to continue into the spring.

Hospitality buying specialist Lynx Purchasing revealed its latest edition of its regular Market Forecast​ and warned operators may need to accept paying higher prices for food and drink is the only sustainable way to secure suppliers from UK farmers.

Lynx Purchasing managing director Rachel Dobson said: “The immediate issues with salad produce are now well understood, in terms of the impact of bad weather in southern Europe and the unwillingness of UK growers to pay to heat glasshouses without support on energy costs.

“The current availability is hopefully a relatively short-term challenge but new crops can’t be grown overnight so it is likely to be a significant issue for the next few months.

“Our advice is hospitality operators should plan for both potential shortages of supplies of the produce affected as well for further cost increases.

“In the longer term, we believe the trade-off for a more secure supply chain may have to include operators paying UK farmers and food producers a sustainable price that not only covers the true cost of production but also enables them to continue to invest in their business.”

Seasonal produce

However, she acknowledged paying higher prices for food will be far from welcome for operators who are already paying significantly more for ingredients following a period of high inflation.

Dobson added: “As bodies such as the National Farmers Union have said, we need to become less reliant on food imports and focus more on homegrown, seasonal produce.

“That should include a sensible debate on how farmers and food producers can be paid at a sustainable price.

“The race to the bottom in terms of food prices has been driven by the demand of retailers, but when meat, dairy and fresh producers suppliers are exiting the market because their business has become unsustainable, hospitality also suffers.”

Advice given

Dobson urged operators to discuss options and availability with suppliers and to be prepared for a wider range of specification in terms of size and colour when purchasing fresh produce.

“It is also worth looking at accompaniments and garnishes across the menu and deciding which genuinely add value for customers,” she added.

“Overall, by working closely with suppliers, focusing on seasonality and availability and applying basic buying discipline, operators can manage food and drink costs more effectively and avoid unexpected bills.

“Best practice includes planning menus well in advance and consolidating orders to meet free delivery and minimum value thresholds.”

A look at other food categories

Beef and lamb – higher energy and feed costs combined with the labour shortage have resulted in current prices being well above average.

Seasonal demand increases for lamb around Easter and beef for the barbecue season will mean demand for popular cuts will be high.

Pork – UK pork producers’ profits are being challenges by higher production costs resulting in many cutting back of exiting the market at the start of the year.

This has meant an upward price pressure on bacon initially and is likely to make price pork cuts more expensive as demand rises in the spring.

Potatoes – Cold weather conditions in the UK and Europe, where many processed and frozen potato products are produced, has had an impact on potato crops.

This is likely to impact availability and the price of new potatoes in the spring alongside frozen ships and other potato products as current supplies run out.

Salmon – Predicted price rises for fresh and smoked salmon have been much sharper than suppliers anticipated due to the impact of factors including fish quality, high demand and bad weather on production. Operators should consider alternative species as menu options where possible.

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