— This is the script of CNBC's news report for China's CCTV on April 28, 2020, Tuesday.
In a full-page advertisement published on Sunday, Tyson foods chairman John Tyson said the food supply chain was being disrupted by the COVID 19 outbreak. With pork, beef and chicken factories forced to close temporarily, millions of pounds of meat could disappear from the supply chain, even if only for a short time. Farmers who could not sell them had to butcher them. Therefore, it is not only a problem of food shortage, but also a problem of food waste. The problems are expected to persist for some time before factories reopen and workers return to work.
Unlike in other food industries, employees work very closely in slaughterhouses and meat processing plants, so effective social isolation is difficult to implement there, after the occurrence of employee infection, generally have to close. According to data from The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, more than 5,000 meat and food processing workers in the United States have been diagnosed with novel coronavirus pneumonia or exposure to novel coronavirus, and at least 13 people have died. In the major meat-processing plants, includes Tyson, Smithfield and JBS, 12 of them have been closed.
Experts pointed out that in the past one week, the meat production speed in the US market dropped 25%.
Wholesale beef prices rose 19.6 per cent last week to a record high, according to the us department of agriculture.
However, it is argued that the nation has billions of pounds of meat in cold storage. And during the outbreak, demand from restaurants also dropped significantly. As a result, meat prices in the US are unlikely to rise significantly in the short term and the pressure is now on producers. Consumers may see an increase in price in May or June.
Kate Cox, editor of The Counter
I think as we get into MAY and JUNE, that's where we'll start to see possibly some shortages and when there are shortages and there's pressure on the processors, particularly on their labor supply, then we are going to look at price increases on the consumer side. Right now, the folks who are really dealing with price issues are farmers and they are the ones taking the biggest hit at the moment
In an effort to stabilize prices and prevent waste, the United States department of agriculture is buying $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy products and meat, according to the Associated Press.
It now expects overall US beef prices to rise 1-2 per cent this year, poultry 1.5 per cent and pork 2 to 3 per cent. Notably, there are also voices suggesting that even if supplies are plentiful, a rush by citizens could push up short-term meat prices, reminding consumers to be rational.
We will keep an eye on the issue of food supply and price.
Governor of Iowa
These processing plants are essential, and these workers are essential workforce. And so, we have to be doing everything that we can. Collectively, we should all be working on finding solutions, making sure that we are doing infectious control policies, that making sure that the workforce is protected, and most importantly, that we're keeping that food supply chain moving.