Farm shop display

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Farm shops have not faced the same supply problems as supermarkets

Farm shops have reported increased value sales of fruit & veg by as much as 30% amid the supermarket supply crisis.

With crops hit by bad weather in north Africa and southern Europe, supermarket shoppers have faced empty shelves and restrictions on the sale of many fruits and vegetables. Although buying restrictions are now being lifted, there are still concerns over supply.

In contrast, the short supply chains and strong trading relationships of farm shops and farmers’ markets mean they have not faced the same problems. Many use local wholesalers and independent suppliers, and some grow produce on their own farms.

Liam Spivey, general manager of Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop in Derbyshire, said his business sourced most of its fruit and vegetables through a local wholesaler it had worked with for 20 years.

“Our wholesale partner is hugely supportive and managed to secure us the right volumes throughout,” he said. “We’ve seen sales of fruit & vegetables rise 30% in the last month as people turned to us while availability in the supermarkets suffered.”

The Farm Retail Association (FRA), which represents farm shops, farmers markets and pick-your-own businesses, confirmed shops and markets had seen increased demand, while Suffolk Market Events reported higher footfall at all its monthly farmers’ markets.

“The current issue really underlines the importance of being able to buy local produce,” said FRA chair Emma Mosey. “Our members sell vegetables that they either grow themselves or sourced from nearby growers so when there are issues further afield, they can step into the breach.”

Farm retailers paid producers fair prices, even in times of hardship, she added.

Independet retailers added they were more willing to pay a market price than supermarket buyers, who had a fixed contract price.

“Growers and suppliers may be more likely to supply wholesalers in preference to low contract prices,” said Chris Wildman of the Town End Farm Shop in North Yorkshire. He added that his wholesale supplier had even delivered through snowdrifts in recent weeks.

While some farms had been obliged to instigate higher prices, shoppers were usually understanding about retailers passing them on, Spivey said. “We’ll happily pay, and charge, the market price, but the key is to have colleagues in a position to explain the pricing challenges to the customers.” 

However, The Farm at Stratford director Charlie Wells said some price increases had been too steep to warrant buying the products. “We cannot compete with the supermarkets and feel criminal putting it on the consumers.”

For retailers who have seen an increase in trade, the challenge will be retaining new shoppers when the supermarket supply issues end, Spivey suggested. “We know supermarkets utilise lower margins on fruit & vegetables to entice footfall and getting close to their prices is an impossibility,” he said. “Instead, we focus on provenance, quality and interaction – areas which the supermarkets just aren’t able to match.”