The United Fresh Produce Association (UFPA) said the Covid-19 pandemic will hit the U.S. fresh produce supply chain with $5 billion in lost inventory and risk to growers as well as $1 billion a week in lost sales.
UFPA, representing 1,500 companies that make up the full fresh produce supply chain, requested “urgent action” by Congress to mitigate the challenges facing the fresh produce industry, including the impact of “tens of thousands employees furloughed.”
On Monday, market research firm Category Partners said its analysis of Nielsen U.S. scan data for retail shows that for the single week ending March 7 produce department sales grew 3.8 percent, but sales spiked to more than 23 percent the single week ending March 14.
In a letter sent Saturday to congressional leaders, and a similar letter to the agriculture secretary, UFPA laid out recommendations to address the food and agriculture community during this COVID-19 crisis.
The recommendations include:
- Establish a $5 billion fund that would be utilized to address claims filed by foodservice distributors who have outstanding expenditures to grower-shippers. Based on submission and verification of these claims by foodservice distributors the fund would allow USDA to reimburse grower-shippers directly based on these approved claims.
- Provide $225 million funding for the Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to accommodate a temporary increase to the cash-value voucher benefits.
- Immediately make an additional $1 billion available under DoD Fresh and USDA Vendor Program to help meet the needs of schools and all emergency feeding sites that are experiencing increased demand. Notably, DoD Fresh prime vendors and fresh produce vendors are primarily small businesses that face a unique set of challenges when disruption hits. We urge Congress and USDA to take advantage of the opportunity to utilize this existing supply chain capability to meet the needs of schools, food banks, and other emergency feeding sites that are scrambling to meet the unprecedented needs of their communities – while ensuring these businesses can continue to provide employment for their workers and be in business when schools return.