At a Glance:
In the U.S. as of March 27, CDC reported:
Across the globe as of March 26, WHO reported:
The food industry is giving back during these uncertain times. Many food and beverage companies are doing their part to help others during COVID-19 by supporting the healthcare field and lending a hand to other businesses, as well as their own employees (March 27). Food Institute Focus
Restaurants are taking a hit. Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, more than quadruple the previous record set in 1982. As job losses mount, some economists say the nation's unemployment rate could approach 13% by May. The foodservice industry is feeling the impact as restaurants are projected to have their worst year on record (March 26). Food Institute Focus
Food businesses are lending a helping hand for distressed public. With workers in the restaurant, sports, and entertainment industries heavily impacted by closures during coronavirus, companies like Amazon and Lineage Logistics are stepping up and offering employment opportunities. Additionally, other companies are providing services and products to ensure their customers are receiving necessary food items (March 25). Food Institute Focus
Retailers are shuttering and stockpiling. More than 47,000 chain stores across the U.S. temporarily shut their doors in 10 days, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Analysts predict the shift could have a lasting impact on retail even after the outbreak is contained. In addition, grocery stores are stockpiling as much as possible, compared to only having four to six weeks of supply previously (March 23). Food Institute Focus
Food companies are hiring. Many foodservice, retail, and manufacturing companies across the U.S. are on hiring sprees and encouraging the unemployed from other industries to apply to help them keep up with demand amid coronavirus. Companies include Dollar General, Publix, 7-Eleven, and PepsiCo (March 23). Food Institute Focus
Comfort food is experiencing a spike in sales as consumers practice social distancing. Chocolate, ice cream, popcorn, and potato chip sales jumped for the week ending March 7, according to Nielsen, while pastry purchases soared by more than 18%. Additionally, consumers are feeling more secure when they stock up on meat products (March 20). Food Institute Focus
Coronavirus cases are expected to increase at meat plants, farms, warehouses, and packaging factories, possibly threatening the world's food supplies. Food producers are stepping up their sanitary procedures, such as enforcing hand washing, spraying down plants and breakrooms, and wiping down door knobs. Workers are covered in head-to-toe protective gear, shifts are staggered, and lunch breaks are taken alone, reported Bloomberg (March 26). Full Story
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store Inc. will take a fiscal third-quarter charge of $133 million from the foreclosure of Punch Bowl Social. Cracker Barrel took 58.6% ownership interest in PBS Holdco in July 2019. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, operations were suspended at all 19 Punch Bowl Social locations and "substantially all" of the staff was laid off, reported MarketWatch (March 25). Full Story
North American meat processors will pay extra money to farmers and slaughterhouse workers as they scramble to meet surging demand. Tyson will pay farmers a onetime premium on cattle slaughtered, while Cargill will pay U.S. and Canadian slaughterhouse workers a premium of $2 an hour until May 3. Margins for U.S. beef processors hit a record high of about $580 per head of cattle on March 23, up from about $170 a week ago, according to HedgersEdge.com, reported Reuters (March 23). Full Story
The Department of Labor published the first round of guidance for employers and employees to take advantage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, set to take effect April 1. The guidance includes a fact sheet for employees, a fact sheet for employers, and a questions and answer document.
FDA issued a guidance document easing onside audit requirements under the Foreign Supplier Verification Program during the coronavirus pandemic. FDA will not enforce onsite audit requirements in three food safety regulations in certain circumstances related to the impact of the coronavirus if other supplier verification methods designed to provide sufficient assurance that hazards have been significantly minimized or prevented are used instead during the period of onsite audit delay. Full Notice
USDA exercised enforcement discretion on labeling to allow for foodservice products to be shipped for retail sale. The temporary allowance was extended to already-produced items, with the expectation newly-produced items will meet proper labeling requirements. Full Story
USDA partnered with the Department of Labor to bolster the H-2A employment program. The agencies will work together to facilitate the identification of foreign and domestic workers who can fulfill critical workforce needs during the coronavirus pandemic. Full Story
The Pacific Northwest's farms and food processors are preparing for labor shortages amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico will suspend routine immigrant and non-immigrant visa services due to the virus, which could cut off seasonal and migrant workers under the H-2A visa program, reported Yakima Herald-Republic (March 17). Full Story
California agricultural exporters are concerned travel restrictions will hurt their businesses. Vegetables, cherries, and berries are often sent via air cargo to Asia in the spring, but the coronavirus outbreak has reduced flights to many of these key markets, reported AgAlert (March 18). Full Story
For the latest economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, look to the expertise of the Food Institute. Monthly analysis of CPI, PPI, retail, and foodservice data is available to Food Institute members in our Economic Benchmarking portal. Learn more.
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Page Last Updated: March 27, 2020
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