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These Are the Foods That Are Scarce During Coronavirus

Due to travel bans and decreased production, these are the foods that could take a hit in grocery stores soon.

Despite the shortages of toilet paper and flour (probably because everyone's baking sourdough bread), it doesn't seem like grocery stores have a ton of food shortages right now. But after a shocking announcement from Smithfield Foods closing their factories and an informative press conference by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), our grocery stores may start taking a hit in terms of food supply in April and May. Meaning that there will be some foods that are scarce during coronavirus.

Why would foods be scarce?

According to Maximo Torero, the chief economist for FAO, the food supply chain will start to see a disruption over the next two months. This is due to less production at facilities (with fewer people working) and less movement of supplies due to travel bans. This could mean that any supplies that are imported from other countries could take an effect on the international market.

Here are a few points that Torero made in his online conference about some of the changes we may start seeing in our grocery stores soon, including the items that are scarce.

Imported specialty goods

brie cheese

With travel bans and fewer flights, importing specialty goods from around the world will start taking a hit. According to CNBC, this means that any specialty items you like to buy from countries like Italy, France, and China will start to take a hit. So yes, those Italian wines or those French cheese may not be on the shelves.

Fruits and vegetables from abroad


Did you know that 65 percent of Australia's agricultural products feed the rest of the world? According to CNN, they are a major agricultural provider, particularly for China, Japan, and the United States. However, with restrictions on flights, this causes major issues for exporting their goods. This excess produce will soon go to their domestic market, but with so much of it meant for the international markets, food will inevitably be wasted. While the Australian government did announce spending 110 million Australian dollars (the equivalent of $67.4 million U.S. dollars) to keep their agricultural import strong, restrictions on travel could mean a hit on U.S. grocery stores.

Australia isn't the only country that will take an economic hit amidst struggles to export their goods. Other countries that provide goods, like Mexico providing some fresh fruit, may also start to face complications. However, CNBC does make the point that the U.S. may start looking to local suppliers for their goods, meaning domestic farmers and ranchers could see an uptick in business.

Click here for all of our latest coronavirus coverage.


brown rice

Even though crops and production for soybeans won't slow during coronavirus, Torero points out the market for rice may start to take a hit during this time. Export prices for rice are increasing in select Asian suppliers, which could cause some demand issues. According to U.S. Rice, rice production is taking a major hit due to constrained international supply. While the supply may not seem scarce now, with projected increased prices on rice (the prices are the highest they've been in seven years), it could cause a hit on this particular market in grocery stores.


cirsped bacon skillet

While the U.S. produces a lot of its own food, if those production facilities and industries have issues of their own, that could cause a strain in domestic production of food. Take Smithfield Foods as an example. In a recent press release, Smithfield Foods announced they are closing their facilities due to a coronavirus outbreak amidst their employees. Their press release states the "closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply."

Smithfield Foods is a large provider of pork products in the United States, so grocery stores will start to see a strain on this particular supply of food. While there hasn't been other news of major production facilities closing, with these businesses deemed essential for the U.S. food supply chain, similar issues could cause complications and slowed production if another outbreak were to occur.

All in all, our grocery stores are still stocked with other foods that we can make meals with. While Torero does point out that slowed production could cause a strain on other food markets—even processed foods—there is still a lot to work with, and now is not a time to be picky.

Eat This, Not That! is constantly monitoring the latest food news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed (and answer your most urgent questions). Here are the precautions you should be taking at the grocery store, the foods you should have on hand, the meal delivery services and restaurant chains offering takeout you need to know about, and ways you can help support those in need. We will continue to update these as new information develops. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date.
Kiersten Hickman
Kiersten Hickman is a freelance health and nutrition journalist. Read more about Kiersten
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