Times are hard in the U.S.


The workforce in the U.S. food supply chain – from processing plants to supermarket shelves – is under a pressing constraint owing to the impact of Covid-19’s and its various variants.

The Wall Street Journal reports that one in 10 processing plant and distribution workers at a major produce company were recently out sick. In Massachusetts, employee illnesses have slowed down the flow of fish and sea food to supermarkets and restaurants. Somewhere in the Southeast a supermarket chain had to hire temporary workers after roughly one-third of its employees fell ill. In New Mexico, the National Guard had to be called into schools to help with teaching because of teacher shortage. Covid -19 bared its teeth and the world somersaulted. It is not incidental that prices have shot up in the process by average of 6.5%.

Five fingers of green plantain sell for $2.49, instead of $1.00 in the pre-Covid-19 era; a bundle of scallion is 99 cents instead of pre-Covid price of three for $1.00, a dozen Grade A eggs that used to be $0.99 is now $2.49, the 10 oz frozen spinach now goes for $1.29, and a pound of smoked turkey is $2.66. These basic needs – and some – are either locally produced or imported from nearby Caribbean and South American countries.

A box of Pona, a staple Ghanaian yam has shot up to about $30 more, so are other ethnic food imports such as Nkulenu palm nut sauce. A ball of Kenkey, another popular Ghanaian staple, enjoyed by many has either been reduced in size and/or seen an increase in price. Usually, eaten with hot pepper sauce and fish the latter has been replaced with other available, more affordable substitutes. Titus and Belma sardines as well as canned mackerel have seen substantial increment.

The pandemic caused by COVID-19 has produced a Domino effect that has not been experienced in recent history. The disease and the mitigating efforts to stem it have affected the supply chain that anchors the world. Transportation systems have been most impacted such that freight and/or long-haul truckers are experiencing staff shortages. From fuel price increases to virtually empty subway cars, dwindled funeral attendance to Sports, the pandemic has affected every facet of life.  Thus, the supply chain that has been the backbone of shipments of both orthodox and ethnic foods has negatively impacted the pockets of all, and especially on the African community that mostly and religiously depend on their ethnic diets.

Food prices at African restaurants have also gone up but patronage has not necessarily been compromised because there are those who do not have the luxury to prepare their own dishes at home. Perhaps, the most affected are first generation Africans and other minority communities who rely on their traditional and ethnic foods such as eba, fufuo, ugali, ndole, injera, among others.

It is not only ethnic food that has affected Africans. Prices of African fabrics and clothes imported from the continent to the United States have shot up astronomically, For some unknown reasons, Africa fabric imports from Asia, particularly Thailand, India, and China, have not experienced any substantial price increase in Manhattan, New York City and elsewhere in the U.S.

The social component of the African community’s economy, in itself a significant proportion, has also been affected tremendously. Rental facilities for socio-religious activities such as weddings, and funerals were either suspended or shut down during the peak of the pandemic.  Onsite events such as funerals, church services, weddings and child-naming, among the various cultural activities in the community were subjected to Zoom, a virtual exercise that has affected donations that could have been realized at pre-pandemic period. Even   traditional doctor’s office visits were replaced with Telehealth visits, a process that was never appreciated by several first-generation immigrants in the U.S.

Indeed, COVID 19 has wreaked havoc with impunity in society in general without regard to ethnicity, race, and religion. Church services were conducted via Zoom and/or telecast and offerings were made by debit or credit cards. Some offerings that were hitherto secret became open transactions.  This afforded Church leadership the opportunity to know and weigh in individual contributions since credit cards are identified by owner’s name. And because congregants were conscious of the processes, it was embarrassing to charge a meager $5 as offering to a credit card from the comfort of home.

Coronavirus, otherwise known as Covid-19 did not only wreak havoc. It introduced a new way of life. A new civilization, if you like; and a new world we now call the New Normal. Technology replaced human touch and to a considerable extent, the world has become smaller and what used to be almost impossible before the beginning of 2020 is now normal. For instance, the new normal now is working from home. Sitting face to face with a colleague in the office is gradually phasing itself out. Employers like it because it has reduced rents and costs related to rents and office accommodation.

In the work environment, whether good or bad, post Covid-19 is empowering executives working independently and apart from each other. Group thinking is generated more easily working from the same office environment. Extrovert tendencies are giving way to introvert thinking. More or less the intimacy of the office is giving way to independence of thought and action. The future corporation will eventually morph into a form of cloud existence where everything, including decisions among other things corporate will be banked and utilized upon need.

Unlike the 1918-1919 influenza epidemic, Covid-19 is being controlled in spite of the havoc of death and suffering it has visited upon the world. Neither rich nor poor has been spared. Nations rich and poor bore their fair share of the loss. But the epidemic has left a legacy. A legacy never to be forgotten. It will always become a turning point in the history of mankind. Notwithstanding, whichever way one looks at it, times are hard!

Posted by on Jan 27 2022. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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