How Covid-19 could hit coffee and pasta supplies

How Covid-19 could hit coffee and pasta supplies

Almost two years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, international supply chains are still struggling to return to normal levels and gaps on supermarket shelves are no longer an unusual sight.

But the worst may be yet to come, with international experts warning shortages of pasta and coffee could be just around the corner, along with higher prices for consumers.

Here are some of the products already in short supply and two poised to join their ranks:

Coffee

Frosts in Brazil and drought in Colombia, along with record freight costs sparked by the pandemic are expected to push retail coffee prices up.

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In July, the price of green coffee beans hit its highest level in more than six years after Brazil’s key growing region experienced its worst cold snap since the 1990s.

Frosts in Brazil along with record freight costs are expected to push retail coffee prices up. (File photo)

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Frosts in Brazil along with record freight costs are expected to push retail coffee prices up. (File photo)

Higher transport costs, linked to a shortage of shipping containers, could also push prices up. Unlike grains which are shipped in bulk carriers, coffee beans are transported in containers.

The price hike is expected to be passed on to consumers buying roasted beans or ground coffee in supermarkets, as well as barista coffee.

Durum wheat

Increased demand for home-cooked comfort foods and poor harvests have pushed the price of durum wheat, the key ingredient in pasta, up by almost 90 per cent.

The second most cultivated variety of wheat after common wheat, durum is ground into semolina to make pizza bases, polenta, bread and couscous, as well as pasta.

Prices for the wheat have ballooned as poor weather in Canada, the world’s largest producer of durum wheat, threatens to slash this year’s harvest by more than a third.

Together with higher shipping costs, labour shortages due to Covid-19 restrictions, and smaller yields in both France and Italy, the situation has sparked fears there won’t be enough of the wheat to meet global demand.

Pet food

Global supply chain issues and a surge in pet ownership have put the squeeze on pet food supplies.

Shortages were first reported in New Zealand in April this year, when supermarket chain Countdown said it was running low on cat food, with Mars-owned brand Whiskas particularly affected.

A Countdown spokeswoman said at the time both supply and shipping delays were contributing to the shortages.

Increased demand and poor harvests have pushed the price of durum wheat, the key ingredient in pasta, up by almost 90 per cent. (File photo)

Amirali Mirhashemian/Unsplash

Increased demand and poor harvests have pushed the price of durum wheat, the key ingredient in pasta, up by almost 90 per cent. (File photo)

Five months later pet food supplies continue to be affected.

On Wednesday, a Mars spokesperson said there had been an increase in pet populations all around the world in the last 12-24 months.

“The challenges of Covid-19 and lockdowns have seen more people welcome pets into their families, recognising the benefits of companionship and enjoyment that pets bring us.

“This has put pressure on pet food manufacturing capacity world-wide, and also pressure on supply chains to get the products to market.”

Arthritis medication

Shortages mean fresh stocks of an arthritis drug also used to treat people hospitalised with Covid-19 won’t arrive in New Zealand until January.

The immunosuppressive drug tocilizumab is sold under the brand name Actemra and is used by about 400 people in New Zealand, including children, for arthritis.

It has also been shown to help hospitalised Covid-19 patients, reducing severity of the illness and time in hospital, and is facing massive demand around the world.

Manufacturer Roche NZ is unable to supply the drug from next month until January 2022, leading Pharmac to announce it would also fund an alternative, upadacitinib.

Known for its bright yellow flowers, canola is crushed for oil to make chips, mayonnaise and dressings. (File photo)

Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Known for its bright yellow flowers, canola is crushed for oil to make chips, mayonnaise and dressings. (File photo)

Canola oil

The joint forces of Covid-19 and Canada’s weather are also behind those gaps in the cooking oil section at the supermarket.

Known for its bright yellow flowers, canola (which takes its name from “Canada” and “OLA”, meaning “Oil, Low Acid”) is crushed for oil to make chips, mayonnaise and dressings.

It is also used as animal feed and a surge in exports to China for use as livestock feed during the pandemic has left Canadian canola stockpiles seriously depleted.

Add to that a heatwave which scorched large chunks of the Canadian canola crop in July, and you have a recipe for empty shelves.


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