Coronavirus pandemic and supply chain issues are causing grocery store commodity prices to skyrocket
If you feel like you paid more for your groceries during the coronavirus pandemic, then you are right.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that April saw the biggest increase in grocery store prices in nearly 50 years. The pandemic has affected the supply chain in the United States, pushing up the prices of basic commodities such as eggs, rice, flour and meat.
The movement of goods from point A to point B has slowed down for several reasons, including workers who fall ill with the virus and truckers who find it difficult to get products to stores quickly enough.
“The process of getting it from farm to processing to your store shelves is the problem,” says Kirk Maltais, a commodities reporter for the Wall Street Journal.
As consumers feel the real effects of the coronavirus crisis on their wallets, companies are predicting that supply chain issues could have a lingering impact. For example, Maltais says agricultural lender CoBank recently announced that it expects retail pork and beef prices to rise 20% in July from 2019 prices.
Companies now have “weeks of shipments they haven’t made, trips they haven’t made, storage stocks they haven’t made and which they must compensate”, he said. “It’s something where we can try to solve the problems, but we’re still going to feel it.”
If you can manage to get your hands on them, many places see the cost of a dozen eggs soar to over $ 3. There have been price abuse lawsuits filed in California and Texas over the price of eggs.
Maltese: “The problem with eggs and really everything in the supply chain isn’t the availability of the raw material – eggs, meats, grains, whatever – it’s all available in abundance in the United States. … Before that, egg prices were at all-time highs, but since they can’t make it to the grocery store, they had to get rid of the eggs on the supply side. It’s just the transport from point A to point B is the problem.
Prices for grains and baked goods rose nearly 3% last month. The Washington Post reports that this is the largest month-on-month increase on record for these products.
Maltese: “This is something that on a global scale, especially when COVID-19 first hit, there was a rush on grocery stores for flour, wheat flour in particular, and which drove wheat prices up for a while. This is something where even now this specialty flour is difficult to find because grocery store supply chains have not adapted to have enough inventory to cover increased consumer demand.
Cattle ranchers say the supply chain is so remote that they are now euthanizing pigs.
Maltese: “At the start of the year, there was a record level of hogs and cattle produced in the United States. So when COVID-19 hit the food service, you know, your restaurants, your food service, what the hell, they were forced to shut down. You just have this problem where you then have this backlog of pigs that are on the farms. They are fed. It’s hard to stop them from growing. I mean, the average hog that is fed and prepared for slaughter is growing at a rate of 2 pounds per day. And there’s a certain level of weight that these factories, whatever factories are open at this point, can actually take a pig. The normal pig that is slaughtered weighs about 250 pounds, much more than that. And you know, these facilities can’t accept them. They can’t handle a pig over 330 pounds or so. So what is going on? I mean, these farmers are just forced into a situation where they can’t sell their product. These pigs are getting fat. And what are they doing? They made the unfortunate choice of having to, in some cases, euthanize them.
A world record for rice production has caused “supply chain concern” to have rice on the shelves due to higher consumer demand, he said.
Maltese: “The [U.S. Department of Agriculture said on Tuesday] that global rice consumption is expected to reach an all-time high. That’s right, about 500 million metric tonnes. But that said, I mean, US rice production is actually up 17% for this marketing year. Thus, many countries were adjusting to this increased demand for rice by producing more rice. So what you have is the exact same thing that has happened in other types of food products where it’s just an ability of the product to get to the store shelves. “
Lynn Menegon produced this interview and edited it for airing with Peter O’Dowd. Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.