Pro­cure­ment of fresh pro­duce is a noble pro­fes­sion. one that buy­ers are very hon­ored to be asso­ci­ated. They take their roles seri­ously with an inor­di­nate amount of ded­i­ca­tion and atten­tion to details.

Through all sea­sons, they source prod­ucts of all kinds for every cus­tomer seg­ment. The num­ber of com­modi­ties and items that a pro­duce buyer takes respon­si­bil­ity for is mind-​boggling.

It’s rel­a­tively easy to be a buyer in flush mar­kets. When there is plenty of broc­coli, straw­ber­ries and romaine let­tuce to be had, a buyer will give the “green light” sig­nal to “sell with con­fi­dence”. This means prod­uct is ample, qual­ity is excel­lent and prices are aggres­sive and rea­son­able.

Weather events never allow a buyer to get too com­fort­able. Nei­ther does cur­rent sup­ply chain chal­lenges. Throw in the nor­mal sea­sonal tran­si­tion to fall/​winter grow­ing regions and we have our­selves one big migraine for any­one watch­ing and procur­ing fresh pro­duce.

The “don’t kill the mes­sen­ger” mantra applies to indi­vid­u­als hear­ing daily mar­ket updates. As a sales per­son, chef or retail pro­duce clerk, we are oblig­ated to know what pre­vail­ing mar­ket con­di­tions dic­tate. Menus and pro­mo­tions rely on solid news.

The news recently has not been easy for any buyer to deliver. Audi­ences are not happy to hear about prod­uct short­ages, climb­ing prices, pro­rates or sub-​par qual­ity.

Esca­lat­ing fuel costs and a lack of dri­vers have pre­sented worst case sce­nar­ios lately. Fuel and deliv­ery costs some­times out­weigh­ing the price of goods being trans­ported.

Fluc­tu­at­ing mar­kets are the nature of our indus­try. The COVID com­po­nent added many unfore­seen vari­ables to the ongo­ing stress and volatil­ity of prod­uct sourc­ing.

Mush­rooms have been front page news recently. Many farms com­pletely closed their doors due to lack of work­ers to man­age day-​to-​day oper­a­tions.

Still other mush­room grow­ers con­tin­u­ously strug­gle with ongo­ing short­ages of the compost-​like mate­r­ial used in mush­room beds. Reports of con­t­a­m­i­nated medium led to a loss of pro­duc­tion for grow­ers. This set-​back pinches down avail­abil­ity across the coun­try.

Sadly, sup­plier pro­rates to all dis­trib­u­tors trans­lates to out of stocks for cus­tomers. This pro­longed mush­room short­age is pre­dicted well past the hol­i­day sea­son.

This one exam­ple can be mul­ti­plied across so many food prod­uct cat­e­gories. Dairy, eggs, meat, poul­try, juices, value-​added, and dress­ings have all expe­ri­enced unique cir­cum­stances. We’re told SKU ratio­nal­iza­tions are ratch­et­ing down the num­ber of items being pro­duced just to be able to stay up with con­sumer demand.

Flex­i­bil­ity and under­stand­ing in tight and unpre­dictable mar­kets will serve us all. Work­ing ahead has become more dif­fi­cult in the shift­ing land­scape. Buy­ers nav­i­gate bot­toms falling out sev­eral times a day.

Some­times the bearer of ‘bad news’, the buyer does not con­trol the nar­ra­tive. It’s imper­a­tive to keep per­spec­tive of sup­ply real­i­ties. This year has indeed been one for the record books.

Mother Nature is always wait­ing to cre­ate fur­ther chaos. Buy­ers beware!

To read the full Mar­ket Report, includ­ing this week’s mar­ket update, see below or click here.