Of all the issues that have arisen related to the coronavirus pandemic, food availability should not be a concern. Domestic agricultural production continues to progress, despite complications within the supply chain while it adjusts to market changes. However, Agricultural Economist at UC Davis Dan Sumner explained there may be concerns moving forward as it relates to consumer purchasing power and eating trends.
“Higher-end items will struggle. The ones that people eat as sort of a splurge, well there will be less of that going on. Whether that’s eating out, food away from home, more people packing a sandwich rather than eating at the café, going out to dinner less often, those sorts of things,” Sumner told AgNet West. “Then on food at home; ‘less steak and more hamburger,’ if I can put it that way.”
Even after establishments begin to reopen for business, the massive increase in unemployment claims across the U.S. is having a deep impact on consumer purchasing power which is likely to persist well after pandemic fears subside depending on how the economy responds. Those shifts in consumer habits will trickle down to farm prices, although Sumner notes there are not any strong projections made as of yet. The issue becomes even more complex when considering the impact modified eating habits will have on a global scale and what the means for exports.
“This is something that the whole world is struggling with not just the U.S. We’ve been talking about U.S demand but it’s true in Asia and it’s true in Europe,” Sumner explained. “California agriculture supply’s the world and so what happens to that world demand is very serious.”
While there may be continued disruptions within the supply chain over the coming weeks and months, there will not be a shortage of food in the U.S. One thing that Sumner assures is that food availability will remain strong. “We’ve all got lots to worry about these days, enough food is not the thing to worry about,” Sumner noted.