One might think that the recent “panic buying” caused by the Coronavirus is having a positive impact on demand for fresh produce. This might be true in the short run at retail outlets, but in the long term, a review of the facts shows otherwise.
Shoppers are stocking their shelves with canned goods and other items that can be stored for a period of time including frozen foods and vegetables. Their idea is to avoid numerous trips to the grocery store thus minimizing possible exposure to this disease.
There are other aspects of how this virus is causing a downward slide on demand for fresh produce. According to Ashley Nickle’s March 13, 2020 article in the Packer (Produce Industry) titled “How the Coronavirus is Affecting the Produce Industry,” there are multiple negative conditions adding to the woes of the American Farmer. Included on her list are decreased wholesale orders caused by school and restaurant closings, the collapse of the tourist industry highlighting cancellation of cruises, domestic and international travel, plus the closing of tourist attractions and festivals. Food exports to China have been slowed and the tightening of importation of needed farm equipment adds to the problem. The further loss of farm labor looms over the industry as the threat of illness and tightening of the borders seem evident.
Florida farmer Paul DiMare stated, “Sales for the farmer are off up to 70%.” He continued, “A large part of our business was with the cruise industry which has shut down.”
If there is a ray of hope for local farmers it is the possibility that
hospitals, food kitchens and government meal programs might pick up some of the slack. If not, the farmers will take another hit after narrowly surviving foreign competition. As for the Coronavirus and its multiple avenues of destruction, the fear is that we are only at the tip of the problem.