From the Field: In-Market Representative Reports – March 2023

March 2023 monthly update from our global network of In-Market Representatives about what's going on in markets around the world.

Food Export – Midwest and Food Export – Northeast have developed a network of 19 uniquely experienced In-Market Representatives around the globe. These local marketing experts in the food industry provide Food Export with on-the-ground assistance to implement our various programs and services.    

In addition, through regular trade servicing, these local representatives report on local issues, trends, and opportunities for international buyers to connect with suppliers of U.S. agricultural and food products. Every month we share with you some of the top market insight from the trade servicing reports we receive in order to improve your international export efforts.  


Canada and Mexico recently signed the Canada-Mexico Organic Equivalency Arrangement (CMOEA). The treaty, which recognizes the two national organic systems as equivalent, is meant to facilitate the trade of organic products between Canada and Mexico. It includes agricultural and processed products of plant origin, livestock, and processed food products containing livestock ingredients whose final process or packaging occurs within either country. These products can then be labeled and sold as organic. The CMOEA took effect on February 15, 2023.


According to the Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade Corporation, the protein market has grown from US$92.5 million in 2019 to US$197.8 million in 2020, US$258 million in 2021, and US$306.8 million in 2022. This phenomenon has occurred due to the rising popularity of protein-rich diets and protein supplements. Such products were exclusively used by athletes and fitness professionals, but they are now in high demand among the general public as well. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have shown a tendency to purchase protein products for purposes beyond muscular strength and weight management, but also for immunity and nutritional purposes.


The north island of New Zealand has been severely impacted by rain and flood because of cyclone Gabrielle, which has been described as the biggest climate event in New Zealand’s history. Flooding and subsequent landslides have impacted local food production. Ground crops and livestock have been washed away and tree crops, such as apples and pears, have also been destroyed. The impact to supply chains will be felt in the coming months as the cleanup continues. The New Zealand Food Price Index has already recorded a 16% increase in the price of fruit and vegetables.


Tesco, Britain’s largest supermarket chain, is divesting its fresh fish counters. “Our customers are telling us that fish counters are no longer a relevant reason for them to come to our store and shop with us,” the food retailer explains. The decline in demand for fish counter goods had been apparent for several years. This measure is part of a cost-cutting package aimed at saving €1.2 billion within two years. Tesco had already closed several counters in 2019 as part of a savings plan totaling €1.7 billion. Last year, Tesco closed another 317 fish counters nationwide and closed the remaining 279 fish departments by February 2023.

Tesco has a market share of more than 27% in the UK and is one of the four major supermarket chains in the kingdom, along with Asda, Sainsbury’s, and Morrisons. With 4,752 stores and 354,000 employees, the company is the 16th most valuable retail brand in the world. In 2020, Sainsbury’s had already closed its fish counters after the chain reported losses of €51 million in its half-year report. The retailer had already abandoned its meat and deli counters at the time, citing decline in that sector as well. According to supermarket analysts, seafood counter sales have seen a decline in the past 20 years and explain that outside the “big five” (salmon, prawns, cod, haddock, and tuna) very little was profitable. In addition, these closures reflect a trend in the supermarket trade that leans towards sales of pre-packaged seafood products.

In other news, the U.K. experienced shortages of a variety of produce such as berries, tomatoes, and lettuces. Reasons include the adverse weather in Southern Europe and Northern Africa (heavy rains in Morocco and a cold snap in Spain), where this produce is sourced from. Another reason is the reduced greenhouse planting in the U.K. and the Netherlands due to high costs. Furthermore, the tendency for unseasonal products to be popular year-round in the U.K. and the logistical challenges of getting products to the island nation are making the shortages more apparent in the U.K. than in other European countries.

In order to manage the shortages, leading supermarkets, Tesco and Aldi, announced rationing of tomato, pepper, and cucumber sales. Asda added broccoli, lettuce, cauliflowers, and raspberry to their rationed items. By March, supply lines have gradually been restored and rationing has ended.