Recent price spikes for food và gas have sầu caught the attention of consumers, as well as analysts — who warn that the pain of higher prices will hit the most vulnerable populations hardest of all.
The reasons behind the increases are myriad but generally can be traced back to lớn one or more consequences of the pandemic: Logjams in the world’s supply chain are one culprit. The United Nations Conference on Trade & Development found that global shipping dropped last year, the first decrease since 2009. “The short-term outlook for maritime trade is grim. Predicting the pandemic’s longer-term impact as well as the timing & scale of the industry’s recovery is fraught with uncertainty,” the organization warned.
Pandemic-related production roadblocks also are contributing khổng lồ rising prices for food and oil. Agricultural production is dependent on weather, and climate change has contributed to more extreme storms & changing weather patterns that impact planting timelines and crop yields. Food production in the U.S. also relies on a highly Mobile army of laborers, whose low pay & crowded working conditions make them uniquely vulnerable to lớn Covid-19 — a combination of circumstances that have sầu crimped production and raised costs for food producers, said Phil Lempert, founder of SupermarketGuru.com. The combination of production bottlenecks & demand spikes have culminated in higher prices, especially for meat, he said.
Consumer Price Index data for the month of January found that the cost of food eaten at home page rose 3.7 percent from a year ago — more than double the 1.4 percent year-over-year increase in the prices of all goods included in the C.P.I.
Lempert warned that shoppers shouldn’t expect relief any time soon. “I think food prices are going to lớn continue to lớn increase for probably a good year, year & a half,” he predicted. “Our costs are going lớn go up for food production,” he said.
Another contributor to lớn escalating food costs is the rising price of oil & gasoline. Demvà for gasoline bounced baông xã more quickly than oil producers could increase production, leading to an upward march for prices, even with millions of people still not taking business trips or commuting to work.
American oil production had been rising prior khổng lồ the pandemic. OPEC và its allies had tried — mostly without success — to disrupt this trajectory by increasing output & driving down prices, but Covid-19 delivered the blow lớn the American petroleum sector that OPEC failed lớn l&. The price of oil plunged last year as nations shut down, with prices for certain futures contracts even turning negative sầu at one point.
“Covid decimated demand. It caused a lot of contraction và production cuts,” said Patrichồng DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy.com. “2020 mix things baông xã for U.S. oil production by several years.” Today, the number of active oil rigs in the U.S. is roughly 50 percent below its pre-pandemic number, he said.
Over the past two weeks alone, the national average price of gas has jumped by roughly 18 cents, GasBuddy data shows. Some of that recent rise was a short-term spike attributable lớn the deep freeze that led to production shutdowns across Texas, but DeHaan says even thawing temps won’t mitigate the rise in prices. “There’s been this imbalance in supply and dem& as Covid cases have slowed, more businesses have sầu reopened và Americans are filling up more often,” he said.
Advocates warn that higher prices for food & gas will have sầu an outsized effect on the people least able khổng lồ afford it. A new study found that the $900 billion stimulus package passed by Congress last December lifted 1.6 million people out of poverty. This pales in comparison, though, to lớn the 8 million people who slipped inlớn poverty between June & December of last year.
The poorest American families already spover more than one-third of their income on food: U.S. Department of Agriculture data shows that households in the bottom income quintile spent 36 percent of their income on food in 2019.
“If you think about food prices in the last year, they"ve sầu gone up substantially,” said Geri Henchy, director of nutrition policy at Food Retìm kiếm và Action Center. “The impact for low-income people is they have sầu limited budgets, which makes it that much harder to lớn buy enough food, & it makes it that much harder to lớn buy healthy food. It’s a disaster,” she said.
Not only are consumers paying more to fill their shopping carts, but rising prices for food affects the food assistance organizations that purchase everything from canned vegetables khổng lồ peanut butter for distribution. The tốc độ of the price increases means that government nutritional assistance & food programs haven’t had the chance khổng lồ adjust their models khổng lồ reflect what recipients receive sầu in aid.
And although national supermarket chains và big-box stores have sầu been largely able lớn mitigate the worst of the supply chain disruptions that occurred early in the pandemic, the small grocers và corner stores that are the only source of food in many low-income areas don’t have sầu those kinds of resources. These retailers have sầu no choice but to pass higher distribution và delivery costs on to their customers, Henchy said.
“If you think of under-resourced, low-income communities who are reliant on smaller stores, those prices only go up from there,” she said. “The costs are always passed on because those smaller stores don"t have economies of scale.”