(The Center Square) – Some farmers across Indiana have seen an increase in business by providing online ordering and deliveries to their customers after the COVID-19 pandemic effectively shut down restaurants and schools – major buyers of bulk orders.
Amy Cornell, president of the Agribusiness Council of Indiana, said some farms have seen spikes as high as 500 percent.
"I think it depends on whether or not the business was already set up for home delivery and whether or not their customers knew about the option," Cornell told The Center Square. "However, some farms have seen a 500 percent increase in business. According to a recent IndyStar article, farms using Seven Sons’ software ... have collectively seen a 300 percent increase in business."
Cornell said the increases, however, don't make up for what was lost due to the shutdowns that were ordered to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
"The spikes in food sales to Americans who are now eating nearly every meal at home are not enough to absorb all of the perishable food that was planted weeks ago and intended for schools and businesses," Cornell said. "This is because the food plants that process and package food service items for restaurants and schools can’t readily change their systems to make the consumer packaged goods for our stores."
Cornell said food companies have been working hard to cope with what has occurred.
"We have all seen the headlines of milk dumping and plowing under of vegetables due to the lack of bulk purchasing for restaurants and schools," Cornell said. "Even though food companies are making tremendous efforts to cope with the burden of increased product demand caused by shifting purchasing patterns, the resulting hiccups are causing massive amounts of food waste."
Cornell said the changes that have been made take a lot of time and effort.
"It requires a vast amount of retooling and reconfiguring of the processing lines," Cornell said. "Due to the closures of restaurants and schools, whole segments of our supply chains have come to a standstill."
Cornell said in Indiana, platforms like Hoosier Food Market help keep businesses afloat.
"When a business is already struggling, paying fees to reach new consumers may not be feasible," Cornell said. "The Hoosier Food Market is an online platform for Indiana farmers to list their produce for sale, but rather than charging the farmers to participate in the online market, the website will act as a bridge connecting farmers to people and help complement in-person farmers markets."