Worker shortages across world affect more types of food

From farm fields to processors, there aren't enough workers to get food to consumers, driving up the price in some instances.


By Elizabeth Elkin, Mai Ngoc Chau and Agnieszka de Sousa Bloomberg News

via Star Tribune (MN) - September 9, 2021


Across the world, a dearth of workers is shaking up food supply chains.


In Vietnam, the army is assisting with the rice harvest. In the U.K., farmers are dumping milk because there are no truckers to collect it. Brazil's robusta coffee beans took 120 days to reap this year, rather than the usual 90. And American meatpackers are trying to lure new employees with Apple Watches while fast-food chains raise the prices of burgers and burritos.


Whether it's fruit pickers, slaughterhouse workers, truckers, warehouse operators, chefs or waiters, the global food ecosystem is buckling due to a shortage of staff. Supplies are getting hit and some employers are forced to raise wages at a double-digit pace. That's threatening to push food prices already heated by soaring commodities and freight costs even higher. Prices in August were up 33% from the same month last year, according to an index compiled by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.


The coronavirus pandemic has helped spark a labor shortfall for many parts of the economy. But the impact is particularly stark in food and agriculture, which are among the world's least-automated industries. Food security is a sensitive issue in many parts of the world and thin margins mean rising costs generally pass through to buyers, according to Boston Consulting Group.


"Almost certainly there is disruption," said Decker Walker, BCG's agribusiness expert in Chicago...