How has the pandemic affected your operations?
Bertrand Guivarch, Managing Director (on the left)
Labour posed few problems in 2020 in the early production zone because seasonal workers were present during the lockdown. In 2021, the travel protocols are well defined and allow the movement of workers. The new constraints require more supervision to respect distances and the use of equipment – we must ensure rules are respected for the safety of all. It’s been necessary to halve the workstations on the graders. Despite a more rigorous organisation, packing station productivity is 20% lower. However, Primeurs de France-Priméal plans to market 5,000 tons in 2021, thanks to its new collaboration with Planasa France, which adds 700 tons.
How has it affected marketing, consumption and logistics?
The first lockdown saw the restaurants close, and they are an important outlet for asparagus in France. But supermarkets rallied to offer asparagus to French consumers, some of whom discovered it for the first time. Kantar data shows the number of French households buying asparagus rose to 31% last year after sitting at 20% since 2017. It will be hard, but we think we can maintain this level in 2021. Covid has also increased demand for proximity and local products, which favours our French asparagus. Last year, the share of asparagus sold in bags increased. We are selling 45% of our asparagus in 500g flow pack sachets and 55% in 5kg packs and this is due to the better health security of the flow pack and increased sales of asparagus in supermarkets. But from 2022, French law will forbid use of bags and plastic film for small sales units, which will mean the return to the bundle. The logistics of using paper bags are very difficult because there is currently no automation possible.