Across the country, empty spaces are appearing on grocery store shelves as food supply disruptions on all levels keep goods stuck, and Massachusetts is no exception.
Brian Houghton, vice president of Government Affairs and Communications at the Massachusetts Food Association, said that due to the omicron variant, there is a lack of help along the whole supply chain. People are missing at every level: stores, delivery, truckers, processors, packaging and even packaging manufacturing.
“You’ve got people who are out because they have omicron so people are quarantining for five days if they’ve been exposed – that really hit the workforce, and that hit it at all levels,” Houghton told The Center Square.
Understanding that the disruptions have infiltrated every avenue of the supply chain is important, Houghton added. Higher demand from consumers ordering groceries online has led to a cardboard shortage, which is slowing down packaging and shipping. Some grocery stores in the Bay State are having trouble supplying their own branded baked goods because, as Houghton explained, they are supplied by a bakery that makes private-label goods.
“That bakery was having problems getting a lot of the products they needed, like hydrogenated oils and other things, to make the bread,” he said. “So it began even with that end of the spectrum that they’re having shortages to make the products to get them delivered to get them on the shelves so you really have to look at it from a comprehensive point of view.”
Grocers are also stocking different brands in an attempt to keep products on the shelves. Houghton noted dairy was an area where that might be particularly obvious. While these struggles are not resulting in financial difficulties for groceries, they are hitting consumers’ pocketbooks hard.
The consumer price index rose 7% over the last year, the steepest climb since 1982. Meanwhile, grocery prices have skyrocketed 6.4% over the last 12 months.
Houghton says grocers are trying to keep prices competitive, but it’s difficult as market forces take over. Supply issues this time around are not as extreme as at the beginning stages of the pandemic.
“People learned from the first time around,” Houghton said. “Unlike in 2020, there is enough product, just with difficulties getting it to the stores.”
As far as when the disruptions will end, Houghton says nobody can pin that down, but estimates put it anywhere from four to five weeks to six months into 2022. With Omicron’s recent peak, experts are hopeful it could lean toward the first estimate.
“If things keep trending the way they are, hopefully sooner than later things will get back to normal,” Houghton said.
This article was originally posted on Supply chain shortages could continue for another six months