Organic veg delivery farm in Peterborough halts new orders as demand soars

An organic vegetables farm in Peterborough has put a temporary stop on new orders after demand for its home delivered produce soared.
Riverford veg box.Riverford veg box.
Riverford veg box.

Riverford, based at Sacrewell, says it has experienced an unprecedented demand over the last few days which has imposed a huge strain on box-packing production lines and its delivery drivers.

The action comes despite a bumper harvest at its own farms and continuous supply from its overseas growers in Spain and Italy.

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But the business delivers 55,000 organic veg boxes each week and says just a few extra items added creates a huge volume of new work.

The unprecedented demand has been sparked by the need for people to stay at home during the coronavirus health crisis.

A spokesperson said: “To help us catch up, we have had to temporarily stop taking any new orders or accepting new customers.

“We plan to reopen our website as soon as possible and will continue to prioritise our loyal and existing customers where we are seeing a huge increase in demand.

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She added: “We are also identifying and prioritising vulnerable customers where possible, which we’re able to do through our network of local Riverford teams across the country.

“As with any business, we are also planning for how we will cope without delivery drivers, pickers or packers unable to work due to illness or self isolation.

“Fortunately, Riverford is an employee owned business with a culture of ‘chipping in’ to help fellow co-owners.

“One example is that our sales teams, who have been brought in off the high streets to protect themselves and customers, are now helping out as delivery drivers.”

The farm says there is plenty of produce available.

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The spokeswoman said: “There are currently no issues with supply – it’s actually been an abundant spring for UK-grown vegetables, especially things like cauliflowers and purple sprouting broccoli.

“As well as our farms at Sacrewell in Cambridgeshire, Norton in Hampshire, and Wash in Devon, we work with a network of organic growers across the UK.

“We also import from our long-term growers in Spain and Italy and are currently facing no challenges bringing in supply from these areas, although we are reviewing the situation regularly.

“But the increase in orders has come from our existing customers adding more items to their usual order, not from new customers.

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“On average, Riverford delivers 55,000 organic veg boxes every week – if every one of those existing customers adds one or two extra items, it soon adds up to hundreds of thousands more to pick and pack.

“In addition, people who would usually only order occasionally are now making weekly orders.”