As I was working on this article, in between doing the interviews and actually sitting down to write, I sat down to make my weekly grocery order. And as I added items to my cart, I took note of the prices.
“They don’t look different to me,” I thought. “And the total for my weekly order seems about the same as it always does.”
So it’s not here yet. But, as all those I spoke to today warned, it’s coming. The increased costs of food production and transportation over the last few months are trickling down, and if we haven’t seen the fallout yet, we inevitably will.
I think that most of us have already seen price increases for many commodities. A few weeks ago, everyone was buzzing about the rise in the cost of lumber, which today costs nearly four times more than it did a year ago. We’ve all experienced the unavailability of certain products due to work shortages in manufacturing plants (good luck finding a KitchenAid mixer). Most people are not in the process of building a house or buying an appliance. But…all of us buy food.
I wanted this article to enlighten everyone about what our kosher food manufacturers have been dealing with and how much more difficult it’s been to bring items to the shelves over the past few months. Perhaps it will make us a little less angry and a little more understanding when we do see the price hikes. Or perhaps not. But it will definitely help us appreciate the fact that we have kosher food on our shelves. Because it’s not something we should take for granted. It’s not something that just arrives without effort.
So now it’s time to ask: Why?
There are lots of reasons. There are dramatic rises in the costs of labor, transportation, raw materials and shipping containers. But let’s break it down so we see the full picture.
France and Other Overseas Stuff
“We import a lot of French baguettes from France, which is a popular item,” says Mottie Atlas, CEO of Pas Yisroel. “The ships today are backed up for quite a number of weeks. Lead time is usually two months. Now everything is delayed by an additional four or five weeks. In addition, the price per container is up 30 percent [other manufacturers say it’s much more, depending on where it’s coming from or going]. So getting across the ocean is both longer and costlier.”
Chaim Herzog, vice president of Kayco, ties the rise in overseas shipping costs to two factors.