As the east coast begins to clean up after Hurricane Sandy, assessments are being made on how the food sector will be impacted by the damage. The cities of the east coast are major demand centers for meat, fruits, and vegetables. Regular shipments of food were shut down during the storm, but Dr. Milt McGiffen of University of California Riverside says delivering food to the storm ravaged area will be an issue for some time to come, “While there was panic food buying ahead of the storm, the real issue is transportation — just not being able to get the food delivered to those cities.” In addition, several refineries were shut down and disrupted the flow of gasoline and heating oil, although McGiffen says these disruptions will not last long.
While flooding was widespread, he says there was not much damage to field crops, “In most of New England, the crops are out of the field; and even further south, most of the corn and soybeans had already been harvested.” However, only about 25% of the cotton crop had been harvested in the Carolinas and soybeans were also still in the field. USDA officials say it will be at least another week before the extent of the crop damage is known. Some orchards sustained damage; and widespread power outages hit dairy and other livestock operations.
Several crops that are part of our Thanksgiving dinners were impacted and may be in short supply or at higher prices, “Most of our cranberries come from Massachusetts and New Jersey, so the supply of fresh cranberries may be affected.” Another Thanksgiving Day staple also found itself in the path of the storm with most of the crop still in the field, “Most of our sweet potatoes come from North Carolina.”
Some media reports have suggested the storm will have an impact on the national economy. McGiffen says any impact will be short lived, “I do not think this will have a national impact.” While the cleanup will continue for months and even years, the immediate impact on food and fuel prices and supplies should only last about a month.
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