My Cluub: The US food system has been revived by expanding the Omicron variant workforce of Covid-19 from processing plants to grocery stores, leaving gaps on supermarket shelves.
In Arizona, 10 processing plant and distribution workers at a major manufacturing company recently fell ill. In Massachusetts, employee illness has slowed the flow of fish to supermarkets and restaurants. A grocery chain in the U.S. Southeast had to hire temporary workers after nearly a third of its distribution staff fell ill.
Although Covid-19 infections are currently on the decline, food-industry officials and analysts warn that the situation could last for weeks or months. Recent virus-related absences among workers have added to the continuing supply and transport disruptions, with some foods in short supply.
Nearly two years ago, Covid-19 lockdowns led to an increase in grocery purchases clearing store shelves of products such as meat, baking materials and paper goods.
Now some officials say supply challenges are worse than ever. A wide range of products will be in short supply due to labor shortages, food-industry officials said, with availability sometimes changing every day.
Eddie Cuzada, product manager at the Stop & Shop store in Northport, NY, said Omicron had expanded its department beyond the previous waves of the pandemic, with one in five of its staff being infected with Covid-19 in early January. Deliveries were also damaged, he said: he received only 17 of the 48 strawberry cases he ordered this month.
“There is a domino influence in the operations,” Mr. Quizada said.
In the Pigley Wigley franchise in Alabama and Georgia, one – third of the pickers needed to handle products and load trucks at grocery chain distribution centers fell ill in the first week of January, said its controller Keith Milligan. Mr. Milligan said the company was having trouble delivering food to stores on time because driver shortages and staffing problems had not improved, in some cases leaving Pigley Wigley to change daily order and stacking plans. He said frozen vegetables and canned biscuits were declining.
In-stock levels of food products at US retailers reached 86% for the week ended January 16, according to market research firm IRI data. This is lower than last summer and pre-pandemic levels are over 90%. Sports drinks, frozen cookies and refrigerated dough are particularly low, with stock levels ranging from 60% to 70%. In-stock rates are lower in states such as IRI Data Show, Alaska and West Virginia.
“We hope the supply issues will be resolved when we go into this period right now. Omicron showed a few dots on it,” said Vivek Sankaran, chief executive of Albertsons Cos, in a January 11 call with analysts. Boise said the Idaho-based supermarket giant expects supply challenges next month or so.
Industry officials and analysts say shortages will continue due to similar challenges at the packaged-food and meatpacking plants, Department of Agriculture January. During the 14th week cattle slaughter and beef production decreased by 5% compared to the previous year and pig slaughter decreased by 9%. The USDA said chicken processing was down nearly 4% in the week ended January 8. According to the agency, labor shortages will also affect milk processing and cheese production.
Christine McCracken, executive director of meat research at agricultural lender Robobank, said the current omicron-related labor issues at producers could extend supply problems, as it often takes weeks to reach meat store shelves from plants. “It means less meat for longer,” she says.
Lamb Weston Holdings Inc., North America’s top seller of frozen potato products predicts that labor challenges will continue to affect production rates and output at its plants in January, where staff shortages have already disrupted operations. Conagra Brands Inc., it manufactures Birds Eye Frozen Vegetables and Slim Jim Meat Snacks, and earlier this month most of its employees were testing positive for Covid-19, saying consumer demand was already exceeding the company’s available supplies.
In Massachusetts, Tom Zafiro struggles to move fish to grocery stores and restaurants. Channel Fish Processing Co. The president, Mr. Zafiro, said the company could only operate at 80% capacity on days when key workers were out, but being short-handed at trucking companies and bread suppliers made manufacturing and transportation even more difficult. Company fish. He said the channel had tripled the lead times for customers and supplies would not be guaranteed to those who did not receive the minimum order.
Vegetable suppliers in the West, who serve most of America’s leafy vegetables in the winter, also face production challenges.
Steve Church, co-chairman of Church Brothers Farms, a California-based product company, said 10% of employees at his Arizona Vegetable Processing Plant and Distribution Facility had fallen ill any day earlier this month. That number dropped last week, and Mr. Church said he was still able to fill orders, but was concerned that it would take extra work on the church’s overtime staff to move fresh cut vegetables and salads in the bag. For grocery stores and restaurants like Walmart Inc. and the Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc.
“Those people are tired and they need a vacation,” Mr. Church said. “It’s a vicious circle.”
Food companies and supermarket chains are increasing their costs as they struggle to work with fewer employees. In Northport, Stop & Shop offered overtime pay to unionized employees to cover shifts to sick staff and asked part-time employees to work longer hours, while product and staff managers in his department, Mr. Cuzada, said.
Stop & Shop said it was experiencing the latest increase in Covid-19 cases, similar to other businesses across the country. The company said it did not anticipate disruptions to its customers’ shopping experience and had plans to continue operating.
Angelo Caputo’s fresh markets in the Midwest are running low on frozen breakfast products, canned beans and other items and are buying affordable items to store on its shelves, said Dan O’Neill, director of Center Store and Perishable Ingredients. Grocery store.
“We do not see any relief,” he said. O’Neill said the company is trying to get more listings from alternative suppliers.
Brandon Johnson, president of Cort Transfer, a Wisconsin-based trucking company that transports goods from vinegar to beer, said the latest wave of Covid-19 cases has hit court employees almost like the starting point of the epidemic. Mr. Johnson said he has become accustomed to telling customers he does not have drivers to move their loads.
Mr. Johnson said he spent about 20 days on the wheel of his own truck last year, including a 500-mile round-trip journey with a load of condiment supplier from its manufacturer for use in Teriyaki Recipe.
“It makes it easier to say we’re tapped,” Mr. Johnson said, referring to his days spent filling up as a driver. “I can say, ‘I have nothing left to give. We have everyone who can work for you.
“Today the signs of the times declare that we are standing on the threshold of great and solemn events. Everything in our world is in agitation. Before our eyes is fulfilling the Saviour’s prophecy of the events to precede His coming: ‘Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars…. Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.’ Matthew 24:6, 7.” Education, page 179.4.