Prices on consumer goods are on the rise for a variety of reasons. From new tariffs against China upping prices on technology, tires and other imported items, to inflation, there are many reasons we may be seeing higher prices on the things we buy every day. But could the trucking shortage also be a contributing factor? Especially when it comes to the rising prices of groceries, there is reason to believe the deficit of truckers could be directly related.
Grocery Prices on the Rise
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food prices will increase by 1-2 percent in 2019. This was a common trend for many decades; however, the rise of food prices has slowed over the past few years. Now, these prices are back on the rise, with notably higher prices on groceries of all kinds.
The price of dairy products is projected to increase by 3-4 percent, vegetable costs will rise 2.5-3.5 percent, and both bakery and fruit prices will increase by 2-3 percent. As for meat, all costs are expected to rise by from 1-3 percent, with the exception of pork, which could actually drop in price by .75 percent.
What is Causing this Raise in Prices?
The rise is grocery prices could be due to a number of factors. From oil prices to overseas trade, a variety of things can spark a cost increase at the grocery store.
High Oil Prices
Oil prices can affect grocery store prices in two different ways. High oil prices often lead to increased shipping costs, which results in higher grocery prices. Because of the higher oil prices, food that gets transported across long distances costs more to ship, so grocery stores have to charge their customers more. Oil prices are constantly in flux and are influenced by several complex factors of their own.
Oil can also affect farming, which can make groceries more expensive as a result. Oil byproducts are an important part of fertilizers, and their price accounts for 20 percent of the cost of growing grains.
Climate change can cause extreme weather conditions that harm crops or make them much more difficult to grow. Because of greenhouse gas emissions, the hot air can absorb moisture and cause it to rain less, drying up ponds and lakes. Additionally, when it does finally rain, the water runs off the land and doesn’t get absorbed by the crops. These factors force farmers to invest more money into yielding a smaller number of crops and selling them to market at a higher price.
U.S. Government Subsidies
Because it is used to create ethanol, a large percentage of the U.S.’s corn production is subsidized. Currently, 40 percent of corn crops go to producing ethanol, which is a huge increase from 2000’s six percent. This means less corn is going to the food supply each year, causing the prices at the grocery store to rise.
World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization also has a say in the world’s corn and wheat stockpiles. Because many developed countries like the U.S. and countries in the EU subsidize their agricultural production, they have an advantage over poorer, developing countries. To compensate, the World Trade Organization limits the amount of stockpiling a country may do. However, this means that in a shortage, prices of corn or wheat could rise dramatically in the U.S.
How Does the Truck Driver Shortage Contribute?
In recent announcements, brands including Mondelez, Hershey, Nestle, Unilever, and Coca-Cola stated they will need to increase prices in 2019. These price hikes are in reference to two factors: Higher ingredient costs and increased freight expenses.
A detailed analysis revealed that the cost of a refrigerated truck moving from Washington State to New York rose by 18 percent in only a few weeks. So, a shipment that costed $8,450 jumped to $10,000 a few weeks later. In addition, a truckload heading east out of California saw prices rise by 25 percent during the same time period.
So, what does this have to do with the trucking shortage? Because there are less truckers on the road, the demand for qualified drivers is boosting prices across the board. The cost to transport food across the country has risen, and those higher prices are reflected in markets and grocery stores as well.
American Trucking Associations says the industry is lacking at least 50,000 drivers. If the trucking shortage continues on its current path, that number will be at 174,000 by 2026. And in a decade, it could take 890,000 new drivers to adequately close the gap. Now more than ever, trucking companies are on the lookout for new, qualified drivers to help keep grocery prices low and the economy healthy.