Updated: Nov 8
By Jeremy Kaufman
Over the past few months, wherever I shop, I’ve noticed distinct and disturbing changes in the prices, quality and quantity of goods that are offered. For example, prices have soared for meat, eggs, fish and peanut butter. I’ve also seen a resurgence of the massive crowds that would frequent supermarkets mostly before the pandemic. Further, there are distinct shortages of everything from microchips for computers to pet supply products. If you turn on the news, whether it’s CNN or Fox News, it appears that there is a sort of perfect storm affecting our economy.
According to an article published on WhiteHouse.gov, wide-ranging factors resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic have led to a situation where supply cannot keep up with a resurgence in demand. Further, businesses suffered during the pandemic and had to either close or limit their operations. Meanwhile there is a supply chain crisis that is affecting transportation, leaving hundreds of container ships stuck in our ports unable to unload due to shortages in truck drivers who can take those goods out to warehouses and stores. All these factors are a global trade issue.
As a result, I’m not the only one predicting that this crisis will get worse. First of all, the timing of the situation is most unfortunate. We have several holidays approaching. The vast movement of travelers will put pressure on the nation’s fuel supply and we can expect an overwhelming surge of mass consumption due to the holidays. In fact, Black Friday is only a weeks away. As a result, there may be fewer options and higher prices for those that are available, according to “Business Insider.” It would appear that people are buying more products than earlier in the pandemic. According to the White House article, “Many consumers are making large purchases with savings accumulated during the pandemic.”
At the local supermarket, I noticed some interesting things. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much in terms of food shortages. This was only at the local supermarket, however. I have seen and heard from other people and online about major issues regarding food at other locations. Locally, though, it definitely appeared that pet supplies and toiletries were quickly running out of stock. I was surprised about the pet supplies; however the toiletries shortage was quite predictable. What surprised me most was the prices of food. Some brand cereals have gone up to as much as $5 a box.
I believe that the shortages are closely tied to one major factor that will change life greatly for us: that is, our over-reliance on fossil fuels. All across America, we have seen the prices of hydrocarbons go up dramatically. This will greatly limit travel or make it more expensive, which will add pressure on shipping and therefore, the supply chain. It will also hurt electricity and during the winter, heating, driving up prices. According to the Energy Information Administration, U.S. households that rely on natural gas for heating will spend an average of $746 to heat their homes this winter, up 30% from last winter. This will combine with the effects of the coronavirus to dampen the holidays dramatically.
In the end, the best way is to start shopping and preparing for the holidays earlier. My family has already started buying food and presents. I strongly suggest you do as well, after reading about the store shortages in an Oct. 16 article at CNBC.com that said “experts worry they will be completely empty by the time the typical holiday shopping season begins.”
I do believe that things will get better, however. I am no economic expert. But I believe that this is simply an adjusting period after a global pandemic. After all of this has passed, our economy has a lot to gain, and so do we Panthers. I am confident that the holidays will go on. With most of the vaccinated, we are at a point that we could never have anticipated. The pandemic may not be completely behind us. However, the worst of it is. The same goes for the economic crisis. It will fade away as well eventually. The best way to make it so is to walk into the future with a positive attitude. Perhaps the economic bustling of the holidays may even usher in a period of economic activity that will soon open America up to new possibilities.