How at-home cooking from coronavirus quarantine has screwed up the American agriculture industry

In much the same way that the toilet paper industry was overwhelmed by the coronavirus quarantine, so, too, is the agriculture industry dealing with a sudden and unexpected shift in their priorities.

I suppose that makes sense; after all, what goes in must come out.

Bloomberg has a short but interesting piece that looks at how the agriculture industry has been upended from planned trajectories of the restaurant supply chain. It just makes you think about all the unsustainable ways our capitalist country had been structured to glide on empty all these years:

U.S. consumers, whose previous food preferences were stable enough that farmers could often make reliable planting decisions years in advance, have shifted their habits at a torrential pace during the coronavirus pandemic. That includes cooking more at home, buying more organic food, purchasing in bulk, forgoing brand-name treats and eating smaller meals due to fewer trips to restaurants with their often oversized portions.

[…]

“The entire food supply chain has been put on its head,” said Kevin Kenny, chief operating officer at Decernis, an expert in global food safety and supply chains. “Nobody can really do a post-mortem because we are still in the middle of it.”

[…]

Before the pandemic, Americans spent more than half their food budgets on dining out. Over the next 12 months, 70% of consumers plan to significantly decrease spending on restaurants, according to a Bank of America survey.

That spells bad news for farmers who’ve already suffered through low prices and a trade war with China in recent years.

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Amazon and eBay punished coronavirus price-gougers by making it harder for the rest of us to get hand sanitizer

The New York Times has an excellent, harrowing story about Matt and Noah Colvin of Tennessee — two of the many people who have tried to exploit the coronavirus panic for profit. The Colvin Brothers saw the chaos coming, and thought to buy up all of the hand sanitizer they could find. The plan, of course, was to control the supply in anticipation of a growing demand. This way, they could mark the price up and make a hefty profit margin. It's in the nature of our system: greed is smart, and should be rewarded.

But online retailers like Amazon (not usually known as the arbiter of a moral marketplace) and eBay got wind of these price-gouging strategies, and decided to do something about it:

The next day, Amazon pulled his items and thousands of other listings for sanitizer, wipes and face masks. The company suspended some of the sellers behind the listings and warned many others that if they kept running up prices, they’d lose their accounts. EBay soon followed with even stricter measures, prohibiting any U.S. sales of masks or sanitizer.

Now, while millions of people across the country search in vain for hand sanitizer to protect themselves from the spread of the coronavirus, Mr. Colvin is sitting on 17,700 bottles of the stuff with little idea where to sell them.

In other words: they punished people for manipulating supply-and-demand in a time of great need, Amazon and eBay by cutting off the suppliers, so they can't sell the supplies they have, which in turn makes the demand grow. Read the rest

The great coronavirus toilet paper shortage of 2020

Sign of the times. Unfortunately for the people hoarding toilet paper during the coronavirus outbreak, toilet paper does absolutely nothing to protect you from coronavirus. Read the rest