Ómicron empties the shelves of supermarkets in the US
Ómicron empties the shelves of supermarkets in the US

EFE.- No fruit, no meat, no cleaning products: Shelves are empty again in some US supermarkets due to omicron, which is causing high staff layoffs, coinciding with new problems in the supply chain.

“I haven’t found everything I came to buy; some shelves were empty, I wanted ‘kleenex’ and some things to clean, but there were none,” Anne, a 50-year-old resident of Washington DC, lamented this Friday, speaking to Efe at the door of a supermarket.

Inside the premises it seemed that a hurricane had passed through the fruit and vegetable section, and finding beef or chicken was a pipe dream, although there was toilet paper, which was conspicuous by its absence at the start of the pandemic.

A few kilometers away, in another supermarket in the center of the US capital, the shelves were full of products.

PROBLEMS THAT COME FROM BEFORE

From the Consumer Brands Association, which represents packaged food, beverage, and home and personal care product companies at the national level, the vice president of Research and Communication, Katie Denis, explained to Efe that These problems come from before.

In this sense, he recalled that the packaged goods industry has faced difficulties in the supply chain throughout the pandemic, which has weakened it and “has left no room for the system to handle disruptions, such as winter storms or the omicron variant”.

“That is now showing up on thinly stocked shelves for consumers,” said Denis, who pointed out that what is happening now is “a labor shortage, not a food shortage.”

In his contacts with industry executives, his association has learned that companies are suffering from high absenteeism due to omicron, which coincides with efforts to make new hires and fill 118,000 vacancies in the health products sector. packaged consumption.

“Unfortunately, we have only added 1,600 jobs in the last month,” Denis noted.

And it is that omicron has been joined, apart from the winter storms, by what has come to be called “the great resignation”, the voluntary abandonment by many workers of their jobs during the pandemic.

In November alone, according to data from the US Department of Labor, the number of people who left their jobs voluntarily rose to 4.5 million, which specialized media indicate is a sign that Americans are increasingly they are more confident that they can find better job opportunities.

It is not the first time that empty shelves have been seen in US supermarkets during the pandemic: at the beginning of it, in March 2020, there were shortages of toilet paper, pasta, flour and other products, while that last October and November there was a big bottleneck in the supply chain.

Patrick Penfield, professor of Supply Chain Practice at Syracuse University, explained to Efe that in the United States, food stores buy their products in the local market because many are perishable and thus reduce the time needed for an item to be processed. be in your stock.

In previous waves of the pandemic, the virus spread differently, as it affected some parts of the country more than others and it was at a different rate, making it easier to adapt and get products from other areas.

OMICRON IS SOMETHING YOU HAVE NOT SEEN BEFORE

Penfield stressed that omicron is something that hasn’t been seen before, because of how contagious it is: “It’s hitting the entire US at the same time, so grocery stores and food producers are dealing with employees who they are getting sick or asking to quarantine.”

In parallel, the lack of personnel affects the supply chain because the US is not being able to produce as much food as it needs and, in addition, there are not enough people to distribute it and replenish it on the shelves, due to omicron.

Despite these problems, the expert predicted that the current situation will not last long, “probably a couple of months.”

“We are going to see situations in which some areas of the country will have full shelves and in others things will be missing, but I think that towards the end of February we will be able to see that it returns to normality, as long as there is not another variant (of the virus) or not. we have catastrophic weather events,” Penfield said.

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