Tyson warns that food supply chain is “breaking”

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SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — In a full-page ad distributed to several publications, Tyson Foods warned that the food supply chain is “breaking” as COVID-19 concerns shut down processing plants. Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) addressed the issue Monday, saying Arkansas is prepared to keep supply chains open.

“The chairman had the…printed letter in multiple publications across the country,” Hutchinson said. “We have those processors right here in Arkansas. They understand what’s at stake, the critical nature of their work and they’re investing it in themselves.”

Dr. Bruce Ahrendsen is an economics and agribusiness professor at the University of Arkansas. He said it didn’t start with poultry.

“There’s more [downturn] in the beef and pork area than there has been in poultry,” Ahrendsen said.

But a number of positive cases in poultry processing plants is forcing the operations to pause.

“When you have a couple or several large plants that close, even temporarily, [it] can have a disruption in the food supply,” Ahrendsen said.

It’s hard to determine an exact timeline due to the unusual circumstances, Ahrendsen said, but consumers may see prices increase if this trend continues.

“Fortunately, we’ve had some frozen meat supplies going into this pandemic, so that has helped that we have some of those reserves,” Ahrendsen said. “It could have the impact of raising prices for consumers.”

Distributors should keep working conditions safe while working hard to stay open, Ahrendsen said. Arkansas is prepared to keep the supply chains running normally, Hutchinson said.

“We hope that we don’t have them go down in Arkansas, but if they do, we can work with them to get them back in operation quickly,” Hutchinson said. “They are very essential.”

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