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US supply chain disruptions hit consumers

By MAY ZHOU in Houston | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-06-16 10:53
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A Costco Wholesale retail club is photographed in Austin, Texas, US on December 12, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

At the beginning and amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, it was a shortage of toilet paper that sent people into a panic.

With the rolling out of COVID-19 vaccines, people now are finding that some of their favorite drinks at Starbucks aren't currently available.

Starbucks put 25 items on "temporary hold" in early June due to a disruption in supply chains, according to Business Insider. The list included popular items like hazelnut syrup, toffee nut syrup, chai tea bags, green iced tea, cinnamon dolce latte and white chocolate mocha.

"This peach and guava juice shortage at Starbucks is upsetting me and my homegirls," Mani Lee tweeted. 

"Am I the only one having a crisis over @Starbucks having a literal shortage of caramel right now," Madison Chaney tweeted.

Supply chain disruptions in the US due to operations shutting down during the pandemic, cargo shipping delays, a shortage of workers, pent-up demand and a quicker than expected economic recovery are affecting more than some people's favorite drinks. 

The US Labor Department reported last week that the annual inflation rate in May 2021 was 5 percent, the highest since the 2008 financial crisis.

House prices have gone up almost 20 percent on average nationwide due to a lumber shortage, which drove lumber prices up four to five times of pre-pandemic levels. 

For those furnishing or updating their homes, a delay in furniture delivery can stretch for months and months.

"I ordered an end table from a well-known, upscale furniture store in February. I was told to expect delivery in 14 weeks. I recently checked my order status. Customer service apologized and told me it would now be September. Good things come to those who wait?" Eric West commented on a story by The Wall Street Journal.

"The real truth is broader. I ordered chairs, a sofa, and ottomans, some of which take 6 months to be delivered because they are made in China, bought from a huge American company known as NFM. So this slowdown is broad and deep," wrote Journal reader Tim Mason.

Appliance-buyers are running into the same issue.

"I am told that the $1,000 freezer I ordered will be available in three months. Oh well, the real damage of the pandemic is yet to be fully realized," wrote reader Bill Poulos. 

MarketWatch reported that Costco Wholesale Corp listed a wide range of supply chain problems primarily due to shipping delays. 

"From a supply chain perspective, port delays are continuing to have an impact," Richard Galanti, Costco's CFO, was quoted as saying. "The feeling is that this will continue for the most part of this calendar year."

The Biden administration announced last week that it was forming a task force to address supply bottlenecks in semiconductor, construction, transportation and agricultural sectors.

The 250-page White House report titled "Building Resilient Supply Chains, Revitalizing American Manufacturing, and Fostering Broad-Based Growth" aims to increase domestic manufacturing, limit shortages of vital goods and reduce a dependence on geopolitical competitors.

The report emphasized the supply chain's importance to national security, economic stability and global leadership. It pointed out that the coronavirus pandemic exposed America's supply chain vulnerabilities. 

"The success of our vaccination campaign surprised many people, and so they weren't prepared for demand to rebound," Sameera Fazili, a deputy director of the White House National Economic Council, said at a White House news briefing last week. She expects the inflation to be temporary and resolved in the "next few months".

The Department of Health and Human Services also will commit $60 million to create a public-private partnership for manufacturing essential pharmaceutical drugs. 

The Labor Department will spend $100 million in grants for state-led apprenticeship programs. The Agriculture Department will spend more than $4 billion to strengthen the supply chain for food.

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