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Labor and trucking woes hamper global food supply

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Published April 18, 2020

Labor and trucking woes stemming from the coronavirus pandemic are starting to pile up, hampering the flow of food that is otherwise plentiful in warehouses worldwide.

Labor and trucking issues

             According to Millie Munshi, Megan Durisin and Michael Hirtzer of Bloomberg News, “A union in Argentina representing about 7,000 soybean crushers is threatening to strike over contagion fears, while port workers in Brazil were set to vote on a stoppage before suspending the assembly at the last minute.”

             “A Canadian trucker group is flagging an imbalance in the supply chain and there are concerns over a shortage of coffee pickers in Central and Latin America,” Munshi, Durisin and Hirtzer continue.

             Jennifer Smith of Wall Street Journal points out the pandemic is also hitting trucking industry in the U.S hard.

             “The coronavirus pandemic is whipsawing the trucking industry, as retailers clamor for delivery of food and household staples, while lockdowns aimed at curbing the disease has shut down other business and left rigs empty on their return trip,” Smith says.

             She notes drivers are facing new difficulties including closed roadside restaurants, customers wary of letting them in and a general lack of hand sanitizer and wipes.

             “These are just a few glimpses of how the complicated and fragile supply chain, which makes it possible to feed the world, is coming under strain as the coronavirus spreads across the world and the government takes lockdown measures to contain the disease,” says Smith.

             It takes all of the resources and labor of warehouse workers, truckers, rails, ships, ports, grain terminals and production plants, to name a few, to ensure food can make it from the farm to the table. And now all of this is being disrupted.

Strain on food supply

             “Grocery store shelves are running empty as consumers take to frenzied buying, and crop prices are starting to climb higher, a possible harbinger of food inflation,” stated Mike Johanns, former governor and senator of Nebraska who also served as USDA secretary during the years of 2005 to 2008.  

             “There is an unprecedented demand on the food chain. Our eating habits are totally different. This pressure is only going to continue,” he added.

             With consumers across the globe being encouraged to stay home as much as possible, demand is skyrocketing for pantry staples such as wheat products and rice.

             According to Munshi, Durisin and Hirtzer, countries are taking steps to secure their domestic food supplies. In fact, Russia is starting to restrict exports of some food supplies, and China, the world’s biggest producer and consumer of rice, has revamped their pricing policy on the commodity.

             “Some North American meat processors are offering plant workers bonuses as their already grueling jobs become even more critical amid the coronavirus threat,” Munshi, Durisin and Hirtzer continue.

             Food importers are also stepping up to ensure supply.

             “The U.S. reported China booked 340,000 metric tons of U.S. hard red winter wheat the first week of April and made its largest one day purchase of American corn in seven years,” say Munshi, Durisin and Hirtzer. “Key wheat importers including Algeria and Turkey have also issued new tenders, and Morocco has suspended wheat import duties through mid-June.”

             Hannah Bugas is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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