( The Packer )

About a week ago, the tidal wave that is the coronavirus began to upend the lives of every American.

All sports were effectively canceled after March 11, and then state and local authorities layered on more guidance and regulation to prevent crowds from gathering in bars, restaurants and events of any kind.

The fresh produce supply chain has absorbed shock upon shock, mostly directed at foodservice vendors and suppliers but also retailers who have been swamped with business.

Many Americans at first believed the crisis was “media-driven,” a gambit to pull down Trump. Not so much today, and the dread of being stricken is ever-growing.

Yesterday, March 17, I asked the Linked Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group this question

We are the midst of the coronavirus outbreak now. When will the industry be “back to normal”?

Here are a few responses:

> "There will be a new normal and the industry will drastically change. And what I mean by that is that consumption will shift from food service to retail in a massive way, and it will take years to return. I think that others will try online ordering for the first time, and will never look back to the old ways getting their produce. The void in food service will be replaced by something else, and those that figure out what that is will emerge as winners. All the non-perishable foods people bought got to be eaten, which may lead to a drop in overall consumption of fresh produce. We need to move on from the discussion on how this affects our private lives and talk about the implications of our business."

> "The landscape will change but for more reasons than the virus; in fact in the total scheme of things, the destruction in the ecosystem is a much more significant threat to our collective well being than is the virus. And agriculture has a critical role in this play. What is ‘normal’? A much larger crisis which is also exponential in nature looms on the horizon: climate change. The only difference between climate change and the virus is speed. 
Just like doing nothing is creating a chaotic situation with the virus, same is true for how we treat nature. Industrial agriculture is destroying the very ecosystem we all depend on. Maybe this is the right time to not go back to normal, and consider what must be changed?"

>  "Our numbers will go up with people home. Grocery stores and online ordering are having better numbers then at Christmas or Thanksgiving put together. You must adapt because change is constant.

> Who knows? What is important is that everyone does their bit to help. Be it buy local. Help your neighbors. Or just be at the end of a phone for someone who needs to chat.

> I don’t know but my phone has been full of texts from friends in the industry checking on my family and I. Challenging? Yes, but great people are still the norm!



TK: Normal may never quite return, but here’s hoping the new normal won’t take long to get here —  and that we can all hang in there in the meantime.