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COVID-19

Seeing empty grocery store shelves? Here’s why.

Kristin Schwab Mar 17, 2020
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One agriculture economics professor says we might have to change what we eat if grocery store supply chain disruptions continue. Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Seeing empty grocery store shelves? Here’s why.

Kristin Schwab Mar 17, 2020
One agriculture economics professor says we might have to change what we eat if grocery store supply chain disruptions continue. Saeed Khan/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Grocery store shelves are going bare as people prepare for self-isolation during the COVID-19 outbreak. Shelves are empty mostly because of logistics, getting food from manufacturers to warehouses to stores.

Ananth Iyer directs the Global Supply Chain Management Initiative at Purdue University. He says do not worry about the food supply itself. The grocery industry has up to four months’ supply of staples like beans, rice and canned goods.

“And that is a cushion that keeps this entire system going,” Iyer said.

Fresh foods don’t have that cushion. Grocers can’t stockpile them, and farmers can’t make them grow faster. A chicken takes three to four months from hatch date to dinner plate. So too much demand now may mean that the supply won’t keep up.

“We may change what we eat. We may move from more fancy foods to more basic foods,” said Miguel Gomez, professor of agriculture economics at Cornell University. He adds this could also happen to food we import.

“Global supply chains, because they are longer, they are more likely to be disrupted than domestic supply chains,” Gomez said.

In other words, things like avocados, bananas and coffee could become harder to find if this continues for months. But they’re also things we can live without.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?

It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.

How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?

Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.

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