New data from the Food Foundation has revealed UK vegetable box sales have more than doubled amid the virus pandemic.
A survey of 101 vegetable box schemes by the Food Foundation showed the weekly sales of boxes had increased by 111 per cent in six weeks (February – mid-April 2020), with an estimated 3.5 million boxes delivered to households during this period.
It also revealed 82 per cent of box schemes have created waiting lists, averaging 160 customers, to address growing consumer demand and an estimated 5.3 million veg boxes could be supplied during the next six weeks if this demand is met.
Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, said: “In a time of national crisis, fruit and veg producers running box schemes have provided a critical service to their customers and communities.
"We must ensure our agriculture policy, now and in the future, helps them get the investment they need as they play a vital role in supporting access to healthy produce as part of a sustainable food and farming system.”
Despite Government backed recruitment campaigns, Covid-19 has prevented travel for many of the 70,000 to 80,000 overseas seasonal workers and the low uptake of horticulture jobs has seen recruitment pressures mount.
As the sector approaches its peak season, from June through to October, strong efforts to re-cruit workers domestically are underway to ensure fruit and vegetable gets picked this season.
Vegetable box schemes have united in their call for support in the form of Government investment grants to help upscale fruit and vegetable supply to meet increased demand.
Adam Payne, from the Landworkers’ Alliance and Southern Roots Growers, said: “Like many farms selling into local markets we have seen some of our wholesale markets collapse overnight and demand rocket for veg boxes and deliveries.
“To deal with this we have had to invest rapidly in additional infrastructure, labour and equipment without any security that this demand will stay.
“With these additional costs and disruption increased demand doesn’t mean we will make anything this year.
“We need government grants for the essential infrastructure to make sure that we can transition our business, supply people who need produce and remain afloat ourselves.”