The coronavirus pandemic dug its claws into pretty much every facet of the nation’s economy in 2020 and is still having its impacts in 2021.
One of the hardest-hit industries in Indiana by the pandemic was the food sector, according to a study from Purdue University. The report shows the state’s agricultural sectors, whether it be in corn, soybeans, livestock, etc., lost a combined $500 million.
“People need to know that COVID was very costly for agricultural producers, but we learned a lot,” said Jayson Lusk who co-authored the report to Inside Indiana Business. “I think there are some real opportunities going forward for Indiana, Indiana is investing a lot in innovation in agriculture.”
Lusk is the head of the Agricultural Economics Department at Purdue University. In his report he said even though demand for food and supplies spiked among consumers at grocery stores, a lot of the hardship stemmed from mandatory government shutdowns of in-person dining restaurants.
“The government-mandated closure of foodservice establishments for in-person dining caused substantial food supply chain disruption,” the report said. “The sudden loss of an entire channel caused significant production, inventory and packaging disruption for an industry whose products are often highly perishable.”
Perishable items such as meat. Lusk said a food sector hit particularly hard was pork as processors, such as Tyson Fresh Meats, weathered the sharp decline in demand from restaurants and the fact they had a large outbreak of the virus among workers at its plant in Logansport.
Still, the largest impact from a financial standpoint was on corn with corn producers losing “between $165 and $370 million in estimated losses due to shifts in demand and the resulting corn price impacts.”
The report said corn prices fell drastically as demand fell because of the temporary closure of ethanol plants at the height of the pandemic and farmers requiring less corn to feed livestock since they were tending less livestock because of the decline in demand for their meat.
Lusk said a lot resounding theme behind all of it is that the food sector in Indiana needs to collaborate better in the event a global event such as a pandemic happens again.
“Every one of those products has a supply chain. And they’re interconnected in different ways,” Lusk said. “Preparation for future kinds of disruptions (is key), and the next one won’t be the same as the last, to help make a supply chain that’s a little more resilient.”