Severe winter weather across parts of the U.S. in December impacted supermarket deliveries and holiday shopping, and could portend higher prices for some crops.
The blizzard that buried New York City and other areas of the Northeast last week caused scattered store closures and delayed delivery trucks, with shelves still bare of some items three days after the storm passed through, just as shoppers were preparing for New Year's celebrations.
FreshDirect, the web-based grocery delivery service based out of New York, canceled all deliveries for one day and was providing limited service for at least the next two days following the storm, which covered Northeast coastal areas in two feet of snow.
The company reached out to customers through phone and email to reschedule deliveries, and apologized repeatedly via Facebook and Twitter to snowed-in customers waiting for the company's orange-and-green trucks to arrive.
“We're doing our best to make deliveries, but the snow on roads is causing major delays. Very sorry. We appreciate your understanding,” read one Twitter post by the company the day after the storm.
In other posts, the company explained that both its trucks and plows were snowed in by the fifth largest storm in city history, and that it was digging out by hand. The company could not be reached for comment by SN last week.
While customers went without their FreshDirect deliveries, at least one organization benefitted from the situation — City Harvest, the nonprofit food collection agency, said it received 72,000 pounds of donated food from FreshDirect.
Whole Foods Market, headquartered in Austin, Texas, also said its stores in New York City were not making deliveries during and shortly after the storm.
Other retailers in the area said that while some stores closed briefly, most were back in business the next day. Product out-of-stocks remained scattered as deliveries were delayed by road conditions, and SN observed several bare shelves in local stores late in the week.
Big Y, based in Springfield, Mass., posted an online note, “Due to extreme weather conditions we are unable to get all your favorites. Rain checks are available — we apologize for any inconvenience.” The company was not available for further comment.
Keasbey, N.J.-based Wake-fern Food Corp., parent of the ShopRite chain, said it closed some stores early on the day of the storm, but a spokeswoman told SN that all stores reopened the next day.
Although the storm left thousands of people in New England without power, a spokeswoman for Quincy, Mass.-based Stop & Shop said all of its stores were open as of 8 a.m. the next day, and were “well-stocked and staffed with management and a sufficient number of associates.”
The Nor'easter followed a series of extreme weather conditions throughout the country. In Florida, officials last week were assessing possible damage to sugar cane and tomato crops after a series of freezes, but the state Department of Agriculture said the state's citrus groves appear to have largely been spared. Last January citrus growers lost hundreds of million of dollars from a freeze.
The state estimated that growers of other crops had $115 million in losses during the first three weeks of December, however. Cucumber crops in Florida were completely wiped out, and heavy losses were cited in eggplant, snap beans, peppers, cabbage, sweet corn and squash.
In other areas of the country, meanwhile, drought was impacting winter wheat and livestock pastures through much of December, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.