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Covid Omicron Strains Food Supply as Workers Are Sickened

Food-industry executives say the pressure could continue for some time, even after the Covid omicron variant passes, a media report says.
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The Covid omicron variant is stressing the U.S. food system, as it’s infecting workers all along the food supply chain, keeping them at home.

That means some food is missing at grocery stores, The Wall Street Journal reports. In Massachusetts, deliveries of fish to supermarkets and restaurants have slowed because workers are out. 

And a southeastern grocery chain, Piggly Wiggly, lost about one-third of the workers at its distribution centers, forcing it to hire temporary staffers.

Food-industry executives and analysts told The Journal that even after omicron fades, the food-supply pressure could continue for weeks or months.

Some say the situation is even worse than at the beginning of the pandemic, with a wider array of grocery-store products now facing shortages.

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Rising food prices are a problem worldwide, the World Bank points out in a commentary.

“Numerous countries are experiencing high food price inflation at the retail level, reflecting labor shortages, a sharp rise in the price of fertilizer, currency devaluations, and other factors,” the World Bank -- a key source of funding and advice for developing countries -- says.

And the poor are getting hit the hardest. “Rising food prices have a greater impact on people in low- and middle-income countries since they spend a larger share of their income on food than people in high-income countries,” the World Bank said.

Surveys in 72 countries show “a significant number of people running out of food or reducing their consumption,” it said. 

“Many countries are facing growing levels of acute food insecurity, reversing years of development gains.”