Ómicron empties supermarket shelves in the US

Washington, Jan 14 (EFE).- Neither fruit nor meat nor cleaning products: the shelves are empty again in some supermarkets in the United States due to omicron, which is causing numerous staff losses, which coincides with new problems in the supply chain. “I have not found everything that I have come to buy; some shelves were empty, I wanted ‘kleenex’ and some things to clean, but there were none,” Anne, a 50-year-old resident of Washington DC, lamented this Friday in statements to Efe at the door of a supermarket. Inside the premises it seemed that a hurricane had passed through the fruit and vegetable section, and finding beef or chicken was a pipe dream, although there was toilet paper, which was conspicuous by its absence at the start of the pandemic. A few kilometers away, in another supermarket in the center of the US capital, the shelves were full of products. PROBLEMS THAT COME FROM OLD From the Consumer Brands Association, which represents nationally packaged food, beverage, and home and personal care companies, Vice President of Research and Communications Katie Denis , explained to Efe that these problems come from before. In this sense, he recalled that the packaged goods industry has faced difficulties in the supply chain throughout the pandemic, which has weakened it and “has left no room for the system to handle disruptions, such as winter storms or the omicron variant”. “That’s now showing up on thinly stocked shelves for consumers,” Denis said, pointing out that what’s happening now is “a labor shortage, not a food shortage.” In his contacts with industry executives, his association has learned that companies are suffering from high absenteeism due to omicron, which coincides with efforts to make new hires and fill 118,000 vacancies in the health products sector. packaged consumption. “Unfortunately, we have only added 1,600 jobs in the last month,” Denis noted. And it is that omicron has been joined, apart from the winter storms, by what has come to be called “the great resignation”, the voluntary abandonment by many workers of their jobs during the pandemic. In November alone, according to data from the US Department of Labor, the number of people who left their jobs voluntarily rose to 4.5 million, which specialized media indicate is a sign that Americans are increasingly they are more confident that they can find better job opportunities. It is not the first time that empty shelves have been seen in US supermarkets during the pandemic: at the beginning of it, in March 2020, there were shortages of toilet paper, pasta, flour and other products, while that last October and November there was a big bottleneck in the supply chain. Patrick Penfield, professor of Supply Chain Practice at Syracuse University, explained to Efe that in the United States, food stores buy their products in the local market because many are perishable and thus reduce the time needed for an item to be processed. be in your stock. In previous waves of the pandemic, the virus spread differently, as it affected some parts of the country more than others and it was at a different rate, making it easier to adapt and get products from other areas. OMICRON IS SOMETHING YOU HAVEN’T SEEN BEFORE Penfield noted that omicron is something you haven’t seen before, because of how contagious it is: “It’s attacking the entire US at the same time, so grocery stores and food producers are dealing with employees getting sick or asking to quarantine.” In parallel, the lack of personnel affects the supply chain because the US is not being able to produce as much food as it needs and, in addition, there are not enough people to distribute it and replenish it on the shelves, due to omicron. Despite these problems, the expert predicted that the current situation will not last long, “probably a couple of months.” “We’re going to see situations where some areas of the country will have full shelves and other areas will have things missing, but I think towards the end of February we’ll be able to see normality return, as long as there’s no other variant (of the virus) or not. we have catastrophic weather events,” Penfield said. To put an end to this panorama, Denis considered that it is necessary for “Washington’s leaders” to focus on actions of great impact. “The problems of the supply chain cannot be diverted as a vacation problem and do not end up in the ports,” said the expert, referring to the measures adopted by the Government. In the short term, he stated that it is “essential” that workers be supported so that the supply chain continues to function, such as facilitating access to covid-19 tests and with clear recommendations on quarantine if they become infected. In the last week, confusion has spread among Americans over the sometimes unclear guidelines offered by health authorities on how long to stay at home if you test positive, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention They will advise reducing the quarantine to five days. Denis added that in the long term it would be necessary to increase the capacity of road transport and the visibility of the supply chain itself to identify weak points, before there is a shortage, “and here the federal government has a critical role.” susana samhan


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