More than 100 industry members responded March 12-13 to a Packer survey about how coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting their business, and 86% reported some effect or a significant effect.

Sixty-two percent reported some effect, while another 24% called it a significant effect. Less than 14% said it is business as usual.

The most frequently cited issue is lots of conversations and contingency planning that take time away from the day-to-day operations — half of those who responded to the question name that as the way in which the pandemic is affecting their business most.

Two more challenges, each selected by 10 or more industry members, are logistical complications and making sure the labor force in the field, in the packinghouse or in the store is safe and available to work. Several people also noted issues with getting equipment, inputs and other material from overseas for harvesting, planting and other activities.

Here were other issues mentioned by respondents. Those in foodservice in particular reported difficulties regarding the closing of schools and uncertainty for restaurants.

“As a wholesaler, orders are down. Restaurants are cutting back and/or canceling.”

“Buyers are reducing order due to being nervous about future retail sales.”

“Canceled customer meetings.”

“Consumer confusion and perhaps not buying fresh produce. Uncertain short-term future. Canceled events.”

“Foodservice volumes are down as a result of the schools closing.”

“In a positive manner. INCREASED RETAIL SALES!”

“Sales reduction in Asia.”

“Store very busy.”

“Increased sales and purchases.”

In an industry with lots of travel, 66% of respondents said they have had to change travel plans, while another 15% said the topic is being discussed. Thirty-eight percent said their company has canceled events, while another 18% said cancellations are being discussed.

Most companies are not — at this point — asking people to work from home, with only 16% saying this has happened at their place of business. However, another 40% say that having employees work from home is being discussed.

If you would like to add your insight on the topic of how COVID-19 is affecting the produce industry, you can take the short survey here.

For a look at how consumers are responding to the coronavirus, check out our survey of more than 1,000 shoppers, conducted March 12.


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