Shoppers outside a Washington, D.C. grocery store on Thursday (January 13) bemoaned the lack of products on the shelves — a common sight in stores across the United States.
“There’s no meat, no toilet paper. It’s crazy,” said Cynthia Spencer.
Another shopper said the recent shortages have prompted him to change his grocery shopping habits.
“Usually, I’ll come after work, sometimes later at night,” said Ethan Barbin. “Now, I have to come in the middle of the day if I want to have any hope of coming across anything at all.”
The holidays, Omicron and anticipated winter storms are creating a “Suez Canal effect” for some produce and food companies, with trucks and orders backed up — leading to empty supermarket shelves in the U.S.
The situation is not expected to abate for at least a few more weeks, Katie Denis, VP of communications and research at the Consumer Brands Association said, blaming the shortages on a scarcity of labor.
“We don’t have a food shortage. We do have a labor shortage, and that’s something we’re going to be grappling with until Omicron is behind us,” she said.
The consumer-packaged goods industry is missing around 120,000 workers out of which only 1,500 jobs were added last month, she said, while the National Grocer’s Association said that many of its grocery store members were operating with less than 50-percent of their workforce capacity.
U.S. retailers are now facing roughly 12-percent out of stock levels on food, beverages, household cleaning and personal hygiene products compared to 7-10-percent in regular times.
The problem is more acute with food products where out of stock levels are running at 15-percent , the association said.
For now, shoppers may be in for a shock when they try to get all the items on their shopping list.
“There’s been no salad for two weeks,” said Warren Briggs outside his local supermarket. “We’ve just never had this before.”
(Production: Vanessa Johnston, Julio-Cesar Chavez, Temis Tormo, Siddharth Cavale)