Increased food consumption at home amid COVID-19 means potentially more sales of fresh fruits and vegetables for Alabama producers, says Wendiam Sawadgo, Alabama Extension economist.
“There was about a 50% increase in consumption at home in (last) March compared to before the pandemic. That sort of tapered off a little bit. But it’s still much higher than it was before,” said Sawadgo during the Alabama Extension Commercial Horticulture Facebook Q&A session on Friday. “What that means for a lot of our fruit and vegetable producers is sales have gone up. Fruit sales have been up 7% compared to before the pandemic. Vegetable sales about 12%.
Restaurants closing amid the onset of the pandemic meant a drastic increase in families eating at home. But as states continue opening up and vaccines are administered around the country, does that mean a return to the pre-COVID days? Not necessarily.
“We have data from a company that’s been tracking what’s going on with grocery sales since last March. Now they have data from the first two months of the year. There’s the thought that maybe we’ll start to come back down to where we were before the pandemic,” Sawadgo said. “We’re still up 5% to 10% from where we were. The question moving forward, are we going to keep having these high sales for the next several months, which is what I think is most likely. I don’t think it’s quite as likely that consumer behavior is going to immediately return to how it was before March of 2020.
“The next few months will be exciting to look at, especially as vaccine rollouts increase and more parts of the country get out more, to see if we can still have sustained vegetable sales.”