Cheese prices soar to record highs due to shifts in demand during coronavirus pandemic

CHICAGO — As with many industries affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the cheese market appears to have been impacted as well, sending recent prices through the roof.

The price of cheese reached an all-time high on June 8 after a 20-year low in April, according to Business Insider.

Specifically, the price for a block of cheddar reached a record $2.585 a pound on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which is an increase of nearly 160% from April’s price of $1. By June 23, the price of a block of cheddar jumped even higher to $2.81 a pound.

The high price is the result of a disrupted supply chain.

As restaurants and schools closed due to the pandemic, the overall demand for cheese went down — and therefore the price of cheeses in the U.S. as well, according to Business Insider. This meant that cheese suppliers, who normally distributed product to school cafeterias, restaurants and more, were left with nowhere to sell their cheddar, mozzarella and other cheeses.

The suppliers turned to foreign buyers and sold their cheese into export markets, the agriculture newspaper The Fence Post reported.

The problem now is that as lockdown measures ease in the U.S. and restaurants reopen, they’re back on the market for cheese. But many of their old suppliers are tied up in contracts with export buyers, according to the newspaper.

Adding fuel to the cheese shortage fire is the fact that retail demand for cheese went up between 20% to 30% due to COVID-19 shutdowns and people being forced to cook at home.

And as Business Insider points out, pizzerias and other fast-food chains were some of the only restaurants able to operate under pandemic restrictions with takeout and delivery, which also happen to use a lot of cheese.

With the cheese market in short supply, the high prices are expected to stick around, according to the outlet. Many cheese producers are cautious of returning to normal production levels in case of a second shutdown.

The coronavirus pandemic has also exposed weaknesses in other food supply chains. Meat shortages have been reported across the country, leading to some restaurants raising their meat prices to stay in business. Many dairy farmers also found themselves dumping milk due to a market slowdown.

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