Food Prices Surge as Lockdown Ends

by Hannah Claire Brimelow

Americans will continue to pay more at the grocery store as wholesale prices climb. 

In spring of 2020, lockdown and social distancing requirement were instituted – sending almost everyone home. Consumers began purchasing food and supplies at higher rate than previously recorded. Grocery sales steadily climbed while restaurants, fast-food places, coffee shop, and others saw sales plummet.  

The national food-supply-chain has been severely strained ever since. Labor shortages, high shipping and fuel costs, and limited supplies all wrecked the normal pace of business over the past year. As a result of these compounding problems, prices increased.  

Whole sale prices, which determine the cost of food, rose 6.6% in the last 12 months. This is the largest recorded increase during that period since 2010. 

Nearly 60% of the wholesale price increase from May reflected a 1.5% jump in prices for goods. Prices for services rose by 0.6%,” noted Martin Curtsinger, an economics writer for AP News. 

In anticipation of price increases, food retailers are purchasing large quantities of supplies to keep their costs low. 

Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. is the largest wholesaler in America, supplying over 3,000 grocery stores. David Smith, its chief executive officer, told The Wall Street Journal that the company “recently purchased 15% to 20% more inventory, mainly of packaged foods with longer shelf life.” 

Almost every typical grocery store item has been affected. Milk and dairy products are priced 3.8% higher. Eggs, fish, poultry, and meat are 4.4% more expensive as well.  

Global harvesting and distribution issues indicate coffee is the next household item that will be in short supply. Shortages are also projected for tampons, diapers, and toilet paper as port delays prevent scheduled deliveries. 

Coca-Cola and General Mills have both reported that supply-chain gridlock has caused price increases for their products. 

Market research firm NielsenIQ found that “trips to the store these days are more expensive: the average price of all grocery store food purchases as of April 2021 increased 5.7% from the same period in late April 2020.” 

At this time, there is no estimate for when prices will stabilize or when the supply-chain will recover from the impact of global lockdown.  

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