Fine food suppliers stocking up on Italian produce over fears of total “lockdown” due to COVID-19
Fine food retailers have been scrambling to import produce from Italy in bulk amid growing fears of the eventual impact of the coronavirus on the sector, writes Greg Pitcher.
Companies were trying to get goods into the UK from affected areas as quickly as possible ahead of potential further restrictions on movement.
The whole of Italy was hit with travel restrictions and bans on public gatherings on Tuesday, 10 March, with the country now seeing confirmed cases of Covid-19 reaching almost 30,000.
Delay and containment measures were being scaled up across western Europe as the highly contagious virus continued to dominate the global news agenda.
Berkshire-based Tenuta Marmorelle imports a wide range of produce from Italy and distributes it to farm shops, delis and other retailers across the UK.
Managing director Nick Carlucci told FFD on 10 March that the whole of Italy was on “lockdown”. He said that even in the south of the country, far from where the outbreak first struck the nation, travelling was very difficult. “You now can’t get from one town to the other as there are police roadblocks everywhere.”
Carlucci said delivery lorries had so far been unaffected but that he feared this could soon change. As a result, Tenuta Marmorelle had placed orders for up to four months’ worth of stock to arrive from Italy in just a fortnight on many lines.
“The suppliers are happy and most of them can meet demand fine,” he said. “We have moved into a new warehouse recently so have lots of space. If something happens and borders are closed, we will have stock.”
The company is taking extra precautions when unloading from lorries that picked up goods in Italy.
“We ask drivers to stay in the trucks,” said Carlucci. “We unload them ourselves and don’t have any contact with them. Some of our suppliers are loading trucks with the driver still in the cab to prevent cross-contamination.”
Hertfordshire based Cibosano, which also imports fine food from Italy, confirmed that it too was ordering extra volumes of ambient produce while it still could. “We have been assured that the food supply chain is not going to be interrupted and we are receiving goods regularly,” said chief executive Totuccio Castiglione.