A large demand for groceries, combined with soaring freight costs and Omicron-related labor shortages, is creating a new round of backlogs at processed food and fresh produce companies. This is leading to empty supermarket shelves at major retailers across the US.
Growers of perishable produce across the West Coast are paying nearly triple pre-pandemic trucking rates to ship things like lettuce and berries. Shay Myers, CEO of Owyhee Produce, which grows onions, watermelons, and asparagus along the border of Idaho and Oregon, said he has been holding off shipping onions to retail distributors until freight costs go down.
Myers said transportation disruptions in the last three weeks, caused by a lack of truck drivers and recent storms, have led to a doubling of freight costs for fruit and vegetable producers, on top of the already high prices.
According to Katie Denis, vice president of communications and research at the Consumer Brands Association, the situation is not expected to return to normal for at least a few more weeks. She blames the shortages on a scarcity of labor, as the consumer-packaged goods industry is missing around 120,000 workers.