- The fast-spreading Omicron variant is keeping Americans from work and disrupting supply chains.
- This is causing slowdowns in food production that are expected to lead to price hikes at grocery stores.
- The cost of eggs, meat, and dairy products is already rising, industry insiders say.
Grocery prices in the US are expected to rise as Omicron tears through the country, keeping Americans from work and wreaking havoc on supply chains.
The already-constrained labor market is under additional pressure as the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus infects workers in manufacturing, processing, distribution, and retail.
Because of this, grocery businesses are already starting to report food shortages and price hikes from suppliers.
One expert said that shoppers should be preparing for 2020-style food shortages. Indeed, Dave Marcotte, longtime retail and supply chain expert from Kantar Consulting, told Insider: “It’s much worse than 2020. The variables that are causing this are not new but the newest round of COVID has hit logistics hard.”
John Catsimatidis, CEO of supermarket chain Gristedes, told Fox & Friends First that he’s seeing prices rise for staples including eggs, poultry, and beef, especially in the Northeast.
“Omicron is taking its toll at different levels of the supply chain, whether it’s the warehouses, whether it’s the selectors, the drivers, the loaders — and as they call in sick, there are interruptions in the system,” Catsimatidis said, adding that he expects these disruptions to last at least six weeks.
Catsimatidis continued: “Let’s say they [suppliers] normally sell 10 million pounds of chicken. They figured if they raise the price 10 or 20 cents, some people will buy less chicken and the people that really want to buy the chicken — it will be there for them to buy.”
Bloomberg recently reported that US beef prices were at their highest levels since November. While meat producers have managed to avoid 2020-style shutdowns, the rising number of infected workers is slowing production at factories.
It’s a similar story in the dairy industry, insiders say – and consumers could end up seeing price increases on key foods such as milk and cheese.
Dairy producers “are struggling to run with the surge of coronavirus cases, squeezing already constrained labor,” Matt Gould, editor of The Dairy Market Analyst, said in a note to clients, reported by Bloomberg.
Dairy prices are also being impacted by a broad decline in US production caused by farmers shrinking herds because of rising business costs.