COVID-19 Market Report - Western Europe

Frozen Whole Chicken
To help you stay on top of the agricultural market in these times, Tridge has compiled reports about the influence of the novel coronavirus on the agricultural market. On March 17, the European Commission closed EU borders of 27 member states to all non-essential travels for a minimum of 30 days. This has caused delays for all forms of transport.

Border Restrictions

On March 17, the European Commission closed EU borders of 27 member states to all non-essential travels for a minimum of 30 days. All non-EU nationals are not allowed to enter the EU with UK nationals allowed to enter. This has not affected the exports or imports of commodities as workers transporting goods have been exempt from the ban.

Nationwide lockdown (Restrictions on non-essential movement): Italy (until at least April 3, the possibility of extension), Spain (until April 11), France (until April 15), Switzerland (until April 19), UK (until April 13 and then subject to review), Austria (until April 13) Belgium (until April 5, likely 8 weeks or longer), Denmark (until April 13), Hungary (until April 10)

Partial lockdown: Germany in Bavaria, Saarland


In general, all forms of cargo transports are being delayed. Although most countries (Spain, France, the Netherlands,Portugal, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, theCzech Republic, Germany, Turkey, Greece) have implemented land border restrictions, they do not apply to commodity transports. The outbreak has had an impact on freight capacities, the speed of processing operations, and transport as workers are subject to health checkups at borders.

Land Freight: There are possible delays in transport via trucks from traffic jams due to border closures. In Spain, there are 6-day border closures at Ceuta, Melilla. In Portugal, only 9 main border posts including Quintanilha will remain open. Drivers at the borders between Austria and Hungary are allowed to enter at designated border crossings and re-fuel only at certain fuel stations. Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria have reciprocally agreed to close land borders, which does not affect truck shipments. Long queues at the Turkish-Bulgarian border have caused Turkish shipments to Kosovo to be negatively affected.

Railway Freight: There are currently no restrictions for railway transportation in Europe. Trains to and from China are also running on schedule except for the Wuhan platform which will resume service on March 28. Austria has halted railway transport from Italy until April 3.

Ocean Freight: Waterway transports between Turkey and Greece have been blocked, but will not affect freight transport. There is a shortage of empty shipping containers from Asia, especially China. As Chinese shipments resume, there could be new issues with shortages of workers to unload goods.

Air Freight: Trade from Europe to the US is expected to decrease as up to 80% of transatlantic air freight capacity could be cut. Rates which are normally GBP 0.65 (USD 0.78) per kg from the UK to the US East Coast are likely to go up to GBP 2 (USD 2.39) per kg and charters up to USD 7.50 per kg.

Italy: Workers in manufacturing and production sites are allowed to work but must keep a distance from each other. While there are no restrictions on any food shipments, there has been a lack of shipping containers, increases in blank sailing in imports, and rolling of booking due to lack of capacity. Orders that normally take 4 weeks are now delivered in twice the time. In the Italian-Austrian border, for example, trucks loading shipments were caught in a long waiting line as drivers have been subject to health-checks.

Austria: There is no direct flight between Austria and the UK, or direct rail connection from Austria to Italy, France, Spain, Switzerland. There are temporary border controls on the Austrian-Italian border, and travelers on the Austrian border are subject to health checks.

Poland: Special flights are chartered for good transports. Borders open for goods deliveries via trucks which will not be subject to a two-week quarantine. There are increased checkpoints at borders with Germany, the Czech Republic and decreased checkpoints for Italy, Spain, Portugal.


Hungary: Chicken export has been put on hold due to an unexpected shortage of food products from increased domestic demand.

Spain: In case of a fresh produce shortage, the government will intervene and implement restrictions on exports to guarantee domestic supply. However, experts believe this will only lead to higher prices in domestic markets. Customs office staff are subject to health and travel restrictions, resulting in possible delays in the customs declaration process.

Influences on Exports & Imports

Italian exports are projected to decrease as the coronavirus has put a stigma on Italian products, with some buyers even requesting “coronavirus-free” certification for products. As of early to mid-March, 53% of Italian agri-food companies received order cancellations from abroad since the coronavirus outbreak in Italy. Border blocks in shipments are expected to cause damage to almost 63% of Italian agri-food exports which are valued at EUR 44.6 billion (USD 50 billion) exported to Europe. Italy’s main agricultural export commodities are pasta, bread, wine, and dairy products.

Onion prices and sales in the Netherlands have gone up with increasing European demand and the shortage of empty containers.

Meat producers in Poland are facing problems with a shortage of staff as Ukrainian workers have left the country, resulting in lower production from processing plants. Chicken meat producers are getting fewer orders from other European countries due to increased restrictions, and expect lower exports in March and April. Fresh milk suppliers are lowering production while white powder milk producers are increasing production as the longer expiration date makes it more attractive for customers. However, Polish suppliers are facing problems in increasing exports due to transport cancellations.

Lamb farmers in Hungary are in a critical situation as Italy was the biggest importer of their products.

Domestic Supply & Demand

Most countries including Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Hungary reportedly have enough inventory of food products, but the availability of supply is influenced by shipping delays and shortage of transport workers. The coronavirus has also resulted in a lack of laborers on production sites and farms, leading to decreases in production volumes.

European shoppers are stockpiling staple food products. German retailers experienced a rapid increase in demand for non-perishables such as pasta and canned goods, and vegetables with total retail turnover of food products increasing by 14%. Stockpiling is the most severe in the UK. On the other hand, demand from hotels and restaurants has decreased.

Despite these difficulties, Italian, German, French and Spanish supermarkets have been able to restock their inventory faster than the UK or the US, although essential food items such as pasta are still sold out rapidly. The Italian and Spanish government has been monitoring prices of agricultural products to prevent fluctuations and guarantee product availability. The Italian government is spreading a campaign to support purchases of only made in Italy products to help the economy.

Pasta/Bread/Flour: In the last couple of weeks, pasta purchases in Italy went up by 61% and purchases of flour by 82% compared to the same period in 2019. During the first week of March, UK pasta sales increased by GBP 3.3 million, a 74% increase. Canned pasta sales increased by GBP 767.8K (USD 917.22), a 60% increase. Demand for flour in French bakeries has more than doubled last week.

Vegetables/Fruits: Demand for fresh produce in Spain has risen rapidly as customers are stockpiling food. Demand for vegetables, fruits, cheese, milk increased by 17% in Italy.

Poultry: The retail price of chicken has nearly doubled in some parts of Hungary at one point and most supermarkets were temporarily out of stock, although prices then stabilized as the production of chicken increased by 2% compared to last year.

Meats/Milk/Fish: In Italy, the demand for meats and fish increased by 14%. In Hungary, prices of these products increased by 3.8% from mid-February to mid-March due to stockpiling. UHT milk purchases in the UK rose by GBP 1.49 million (USD 1.78 million), a 90.7% increase.

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