Mahinga Tubirori buys most products for his store through an African wholesaler in Chicago.
But even ordering from a domestic location has proved difficult for the Columbia store owner as products still need to ship from Africa.
“They say, ‘It’s going to take one month, two months, three months,’ ” said Tubirori, who owns African Market at 1004 Old 63 N. “There’s nothing you can do.”
Disruptions in supply chains have affected numerous markets across the globe.
With a significant portion of their products coming from overseas, international markets in Columbia have felt the effects of this as well.
Tubirori’s store has been in business for around two years, but even during that short time, he has seen a significant change in product availability.
“Before COVID, we were getting everything we needed,” Tubirori said. “Everything we ordered, we’d get on time.”
About 90% of the food Tubirori sells is from Africa. Products he’s had trouble procuring include various flours and fish that are popular in Africa.
“Africans, they like a lot of fish,” Tubirori said.
Tubirori said things are getting better, but for a couple of months, it was hard to get products.
Youssef El-Tayash is the owner of A&Y Global Market in Columbia, located on Business Loop 70 W.
El-Tayash said supply chain issues have affected arrival times for items and what he has access to buy. He also has to order farther in advance due to long shipping times.
“The order, instead of taking one week, takes two weeks,” El-Tayash said.
He said he has to predict how quickly a product is going to run out.
“We don’t wait too long,” he said. El-Tayash said he doesn’t wait until a product gets low and that he always orders extra.
He also finds substitutes for products that are difficult to stock.
High prices for international shipment
Supply chain disruptions have made international shipping a more expensive and lengthy process.
Anthony Ross is a professor at MU and an expert in supply chains. He said the links between ports and consumers are complex and prone to delays, even before the pandemic started. A shortage in workers has made the unloading and handling process longer and more costly, creating less shipping container availability for companies.
“Companies that are trying to ship their goods, three years ago, for a 40-foot container, they’d probably pay $2,500 to rent that container, load their goods and put it on the ship,” Ross said. “Today, it’s over $10,000 for the same type of container.”
The price to just serve consumers is going up. Plus rising demand, this has resulted in higher prices, Ross said.
“The prices went really, really high,” Tubirori said. “It’s something you have to deal with.”
The price of food is at its highest level in around a decade. The Food and Agriculture Organization, a part of the U.N., tracks international food prices each month using the FAO Food Price Index. In November 2021, the index reached its highest level since 2011.
“It’s not going back to normal; it will be a new normal,” Ross said. “I think it’s still working itself out.”