With so many people staying at home and unsure of what the future holds, our collective shopping habits have changed drastically in a short period of time. While that’s seen a booming market for toilet paper and guilty pleasures like junk food, consumers are also buying up tons of staple goods—and it’s already driving up the price.
According to Nielsen data for the week ending March 14 (so a little bit closer to when social distancing began in earnest) cited by CNN, egg sales spiked 44 percent over the previous year. That’s a pretty wild increase for an agricultural commodity, and it’s naturally led to some empty shelves.
To compensate, some retailers are ordering as much as six times as many eggs as they otherwise would. And unsurprisingly, that’s led to what a USDA report describes as a precipitous rise in shell egg prices. “Whie Large shell eggs rose 85% (from $1.029 to $1.9088 per dozen), their highest level to date,” the report states, going onto note that wholesale prices in the New York market (an important industry indicator) rose by 52 percent from $1.72 to $2.61 per dozen.
Naturally, those higher wholesale prices are already being passed onto consumers, who will start to feel an extra pinch. That’s led at least some retailers to warn their customers about the higher prices and potential supply disruptions they may face. CNN cites at least one Stop & Shop location near Boston that’s told customers that they “may see higher prices… as well as potential interruptions in supply,” as a result of the tighter supply and higher demand.
But with March already shattering the previous record for new unemployment claims, some retailers are frustrated that the egg imbalance has created yet another challenge for their struggling customers.
"It is unconscionable that the egg industry has doubled prices because of increased demand. It is hitting low-income New Yorkers the hardest, as so many have lost their jobs working in restaurants and hotels," Avi Kaner, a spokesperson for Manhattan-based Morton Williams supermarkets said.
Though we’re continually assured supply chains remain strong, it looks like the situation with eggs is an early sign that the supply of certain fresh products can’t (yet) keep pace with unprecedented demand. Whether things can reach a better equilibrium now that sheltering in place is an established part of daily life or if prices will spiral out of control remains to be seen.