Many shelves are empty again at the local stores where we shop for food. Last week, my store of choice, part of a big local chain, was devoid of yogurt and only two bottles of orange juice remained. Since then, the shortages have become worse.
What’s the cause of this problem? One significant factor appears to be a lack of workers due to illness from the new coronavirus variant.
This problem reportedly is occurring throughout the supply chain. For example, Reuters says there has been a spate of infections among inspectors at meat plants. Slate says that some parents who work in grocery stores are staying home due to widespread school and day care closures, while others have decided their jobs just aren’t worth the risk of exposure during this surge (a questionable choice, I would have thought).
The weather is very likely another factor in the Washington, D.C. area. My trip to the grocery store occurred less than two days after a snowfall of four to six inches. That’s not much by normal standards, but in D.C. it’s a crisis.
What about America’s ports? In December, Joe Biden claimed that this part of the supply chain problem had largely been solved by his team. His supply chain czar cited an alleged 50 percent reduction in containers stuck for more than eight days at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
But now, according to NRO’s Dominic Pino, the line of ships waiting there is at an all-time high:
There are now more than three times as many container ships waiting for LA/LB berths as there were at this time last year. . .and 31% more than on Oct. 24, when online searches for the term “supply chain” peaked and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach announced a new Biden administration-backed congestion fee plan.
The total amount of cargo waiting offshore is 815,958 TEU (20-foot equivalent units). That’s more than the combined amount of imports for Los Angeles and Long Beach for the entire month of November, the story says.
These numbers are surprising because, according to Pino, January and February are usually a time when companies cut seasonal workers and regroup in preparation for the next peak season. Thus, “for the congestion to continue to increase through the conclusion of the holidays is not a good sign, and companies will have a hard time catching up before the next peak season starts in August.”
The problem at ports, which extends to Oakland, Seattle, Houston, Savannah, Charleston, Norfolk, and New York/New Jersey, appears to be covid related. According to American Shipper, there are “omicron-induced dockworker shortages at U.S. terminals.”
Presumably, these shortages will ease when new cases per day fall or when people become less fearful of the virus. But when will that happen?