UK seafood supply chains adapted to pandemic during summer respite
The temporary easing of coronavirus restrictions in the United Kingdom during the summer months provided a platform for the country’s seafood supply chains to start to get back on track, finds the latest COVID-19 impact review compiled by public body Seafish.
Focusing on the months July to September 2020 – a period that saw restrictions relaxed before being scaled up again – the new review confirms that in particular, foodservice demand increased in the United Kingdom and Europe, with consumers given the opportunity to eat meals out of their homes.
The sector and its suppliers were further boosted in August with the launch of the U.K.-wide Eat Out to Help Out scheme. This government-introduced initiative helped processors and wholesalers sell stock that had built up during lockdown into foodservice, while increasing the demand for raw materials.
But while total U.K. foodservice visits were up considerably compared to earlier in the year, they remained 42 percent lower than in July-September 2019.
The return of foodservice also saw exports flow to Europe and imports recover slightly, while retail sales dropped back on previous months, but remained above 2019 levels, with salmon sales up 16 percent year-on-year.
At the same time, most processing businesses got back online, having made adaptations to ensure safe working while meeting shifting demand.
“Having weathered the initial impacts of COVID-19 on local and global trade, the people operating the U.K. seafood supply chain learned to live and work within the ‘new normal’ of a global pandemic over the summer,” Seafish Director of Corporate Relations Hazel Curtis said.
According to the review, the U.K. catching sector began to see better prices for some species, thanks to the return of foodservice markets at home and overseas. However, shellfish prices remained low, and some businesses with product largely destined for export and high-end foodservice continued to struggle with markets and prices during the three-month period.
“The Chinese market for our finished product (oysters) has continued to be very limited due to COVID-19, with further impacts on sales due to the closure of the Beijing wetfish market, and seafood scare stories in China affecting business," Rooney Fish and Millbay Oysters Owner Andrew Rooney said. "We have been making less than 10 percent of the sales we normally do. Significant price drops and increases in flight and packaging costs have all affected our profitability."
September brought increased restrictions to combat the second wave of the virus in the country, which led many consumers to lose confidence in dining out of home, Seafish said, adding that the situation was exacerbated by financial uncertainty and concerns around future job security.
The authority plans to release its next review, focusing on the period October to December 2020, in March 2021.
Photo courtesy of Seafish