VIRUS BENEFITS FOOD PROCESSORS AND LOBSTER LOVERS


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The Campbell Soup Co., maker of SpagettiOs and other iconic food staples, reports that its products are flying off supermarket shelves as shoppers hoard canned goods and other long-lived basic items to guard against the effects of quarantines and other extreme measures if the coronavirus epidemic worsens.
Retailers also report running low on Swanson canned chicken, Jif peanut butter, and Kraft macaroni and cheese.
Campbell’s shares rose 10% on 5 March.
The company has said it’s making extra batches of popular items for which it can get ingredients.
The virus also has brought consumers an unexpected benefit: cheap lobster.
The virus epidemic has forced mass cancellations of “lobster flights” – chartered planes carrying U.S. lobsters to China, especially for its New Year’s holiday.
Demand in China for North American lobster is about 95 percent below normal.
The Lobster Co. in Arundel, Maine, was sending 1,000 boxes of lobster – each box holding 33 of the crustaceans – to China last year. Now the usual shipment is 120 boxes and the company is about to lay off most of its 14 workers.
The company had to sell 50,000 pounds of lobsters at a loss.
Those homeless lobsters are flooding U.S. seafood stores and supermarkets, where a 1.5-pound lobster is selling for an average price of around $8, compared to almost $11 a year ago, and pushing prices to four-year lows.
The U.S.-China trade war diverted a large portion of China’s lobster demand to Canada, which was sending nine charter flights of shellfish a week to the mainland. With China’s ports shut, that seafood is coming south into U.S.
Lobster businesses are storing inventory as much as possible and selling what they can to Europe and Middle East as well as to frozen-food processors.
 
Lobster specialists are concerned that China’s virus outbreak will force many smaller restaurants there to close, permanently wiping out a portion of their market.

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