Coronavirus Supply Woes Attributed to Panic, Not Shortage

March 17, 2020
The coronavirus's disruption of the supply chain is happening mostly due to hoarding by nervous consumers, according to processors and other industry observers.

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The coronavirus is having a profound yet varied impact on different parts of the food supply chain, but most of the disruption is happening due to hoarding by nervous consumers, according to processors and other industry observers.

Politicians, grocers and processors are all insisting that there is an adequate overall supply of food, and that any shortages or disruptions are due to the normal flow of the supply chain being inadequate to cope with the sudden surge in demand.

Highlights of the situation include:

  • Sales of certain staples have spiked. According to Nielsen, canned tuna sales are up 31%, dried beans up 63% and dried milk up 126%.
  • The National Pork Producers Council informed U.S. officials in a letter that the crisis is greatly exacerbating labor shortage in pork processing.
  • Cold storage is coming under great demand, with the largest cold storage chain in the country saying it has to hire 2,000 more workers across the world in the next eight weeks. Demand for cold storage has especially risen among meat processors, as shipments to China have greatly fallen off, backing up meat supplies.
  • Kraft Heinz is asking employees who can work from home to do so, and is restricting air travel to “business-critical” trips.
  • Coca-Cola and other heavy users of artificial sweeteners could be facing problems due to disruption of supplies from China, the ingredient’s major supplier.

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