EXPLAINER: Grocery item shortages and price hikes

Published: Feb. 2, 2022 at 6:04 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - If you’ve been grocery shopping lately, you’ve most likely seen many item prices are higher and shelves are emptier. It’s a nationwide problem impacting us in the Columbus area, too.

We received more than 700 comments from viewers about it on our Facebook page Tuesday, so we’re finding out why certain items are costing more and which items are in high demand.

“Everything has at least doubled from what it was this time last year,” Columbus resident Pam Thorn said.

Piggly Wiggly Controller Keith Milligan said for his stores, these problems are a direct result of the COVID-19 Omicron variant. He explained for the past two weeks, employees who work in Piggly Wiggly stores, plus employees at its distribution center in Bessemer, Alabama, have been hit hard by Omicron. This, causing the supply and demand chain to become unbalanced.

Patricia Holley travels from Talbotton each week to buy her groceries. She said she drives all that way because items are less expensive here in Columbus, but she said she’s rethinking that after shopping Wednesday.

“Some of the things that I’ve been getting that costs a dollar costs me about $4.00 now,” Holley said. “Meats are just sky high. A pound of ground beef, normally get it for three dollars or something, now it’s about 6,7, $8.00.”

“Chicken is up high,” Columbus resident Tim Brooks said. “Bread is up high, so I guess, all the food is up high. Hamburger meat, all that stuff is up high.”

Milligan said Piggly Wiggly has three different meat and produce suppliers, so they haven’t felt much of an impact there. It’s a different story when it comes to non-refrigerated product, though.

Pam Thorn of Columbus shops at Publix on Milgen Road. She said she’s experiencing a lack of dry goods there as well.

“Breads, cookies, canned vegetables... It’s just total emptiness,” Thorn told us.

And as for pricing, she said it’s not much better: “Today we bought two pork chops, and they were $9.50. This time last year, you could get them for about $4.50 for two.”

Milligan said right now, he has noticed that beef, milk and eggs are priced higher than normal. He explained that these high prices and shortages are temporary, and that he can already tell the supply chain is balancing back out now that Omicron is easing up.

News Leader 9 reached out to Winn-Dixie, as well, but are awaiting a response.

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