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Supply chain needs new normal | Agriculture

For decades the population has reaped the most obvious consumer-facing benefit of the “just enough, just in time” food system – inexpensive foods. Consumers have come to expect it as the status quo. But one of the hidden costs, amidst many others, is a loss of resilience. The problem isn’t that there isn’t enough food. It’s that the system that was always relied upon to move food from point A to point B has now slowed or stopped. Those disruptions are due to a wide variety of factors, from a lockdown-induced lack of workers to new restrictions on imports or exports as some nations start restricting exports of internally produced food.

Jamie Pfuhl, president of the Minnesota Grocers Association, said distributors and industry experts haven’t seen before this kind of demand for groceries.

“These sorts of shortages typically happen on a regional level,” Pfuhl said. “If (there’s) a natural disaster, flooding, hurricanes, things like that, then maybe we see this kind of thing. But these shortages are happening nationwide.”

Industry analysts say the United States is in no danger of a mass food shortage any time soon. Rather there’s such a demand for groceries that manufacturers and suppliers are having a difficult time adjusting the supply chain to meet consumer needs.

U.S. food imports such as grains and rice are in short supply because trading partners are dealing with their own virus-related manufacturing issues. Companies are having difficulty repackaging products normally reserved for the restaurant industry for grocery stores. And the farming operations that supply restaurants suddenly found themselves without buyers, meaning their crops or animal products would either need to be stored or destroyed unless they found different outlets. All those factors will affect what grocery stores offer later this year.

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