Hungry Eyes, by Rich Paschall

My father knew all the best buffet restaurants and Swedish Smorgasbords. For a few years, it was a frequent weekend adventure to accompany my father and his wife to a buffet restaurant. There are not as many of these restaurants as there used to be in our area, and we hope the Covid-19 doesn’t kill off the ones that are left.

After we would go through the food line and start eating all the food we had claimed, my father would usually comment that our eyes were larger than our stomachs. This was because it always seemed like we took too much food. It was odd to have eaten so much that we could not go back to get one of the many desserts. That happened to me a number of times.

Apples and other fall fruits on display

It was the same when we went shopping. We were usually cautioned not to go to the supermarket when we were hungry. Our eyes would be bigger than our stomachs and we would put into the cart more things than we needed. This presented a particular problem when we picked up too many perishable products. According to my parents and grandparents, it was a bad thing not to eat the food on your plate or to buy things just to have to throw them away. “Don’t you know there are people starving in ________” (insert third world country here).

I get it. Those are really sad eyes when you have to throw food away. Yes, food has been abundant in this country and it is usually cheap, but no reason to toss it out.  And it may not remain inexpensive as we suffer through a global supply chain problem.

When you pick up those fruits and veggies at the supermarket, you may notice that they have colorful little stickers on them. They may indicate the company selling the goods (Dole, Del Monte, Chiquita, etc). They might have a Produce number to assist the checker when you reach the cash register. They also usually indicate where the item came from.

Your avocados likely came from Mexico. The bananas probably came from Guatemala, but may have come from Honduras or Ecuador. Yes, we do grow a lot of fruits and vegetables here, but how can fresh fruits and vegetables be in the stores year-round when the harvest season is short?  The rest of the year the goods come from other countries, mostly in South and Central America. In fact, more than half of the fruit sold here each year is imported.

Despite the ease of growing tomatoes, we imported 2.3 billion dollars worth from Mexico in 2018. We got them from other countries too. We do love tomatoes! We also got onions, peppers, cucumbers, and other fruits and vegetables from Mexico. Check your labels.

One-third of the vegetables are imported. Yes, we do export some fruits and vegetables, but we import three times as much. Now during this unique situation for global transportation, how do all of these goods get here? Yes, there are some airplane freighters flying to some countries, but that is nowhere near the amount of “lift” needed.

The major airlines of the world all have cargo divisions. Their small commuter planes may take small packages to their destination, but those large widebody passenger aircraft carry a large variety of goods. This is how many commodities move from country to country. What if the planes are not flying? There are not enough airline freighters in the world to move cargo around.

The passenger Boeing 777-300 cargo capacity is 24,000 kilos or 52,910 pounds for Americans. About two-thirds of the belly space is used for cargo on the widebody aircraft. Before Covid-19 a large number of air carriers were flying into every major city in the world. Some places now have no international flights, and some just a few. How do your fruits and vegetables get here? Without passengers, many airlines are not flying at all. A few maintain a limited schedule. Air Canada stated recently that they are flying at 5 percent capacity.

Some of the airlines are flying with just cargo. With no passenger revenue, they must charge a much higher rate to make the flight financially viable. Many places need to move their goods now but are reluctant to pay a significantly higher price. What is the market place to do?

If you are shipping a perishable commodity, you can not wait for prices to go down. You pay whatever rate will get your goods to market, or you let them spoil and throw them out. Plowing your crops into the ground is a sad alternative to paying higher transportation costs.

Colombian airline in bankruptcy

How will those South and Central American fruits and vegetables get to North America? Colombian airline Avianca, a major player in South America and carrier of goods and passengers to Miami, has declared bankruptcy.  The airline has not flown since mid-March. They hope to be in the air again soon, but what about the goods that need to fly now?

Some customers have arranged to sign a Blocked Space Agreement (BSA) and even pay an airline upfront to come into their city. This means they will pay for a certain amount of space on a flight whether they use it or not.  The airline can then attempt to sell the additional space, or space in the other direction in order to cover the remaining costs and turn a profit. What does this mean to you?

If the only alternative for our trading partners to sell their goods is to pay a higher price, then they will do it. The result of that will show up on the supermarket shelf soon.

Last week Air Canada ran an all-cargo flight to Avianca’s home town of Bogota. They will run another soon. They are also running a cargo flight to Buenos Aires and on to Santiago. There was also one to Punta Cana and Montego Bay this week. They will try to work with South American sales teams to maintain some of these routes. Other airlines are attempting all cargo runs as well. No one is offering to move things at pre-COVID-19 prices.

Air Canada has now removed the seats of 4 777-300s and will do the same for one more, plus 4 Airbus 330s.

Sources: “A Surprising Amount of Your Fresh Fruit Actually Comes from Outside the U.S.,” by Abbey White, Food & Wine, March 14, 2018.
Top Imported Fruits Most Loved by Americans,” by Daniel Workman, World’s Top Experts, April 18, 2020.
Our Fleet & ULDs,” Air Canada Cargo,
Some of the world’s airlines could go bankrupt because of the COVID-19 crisis, according to an aviation consultancy. See the carriers that have already collapsed because of the pandemic.” by David Slotnik, Business Insider, May 12, 2020
See also: “The Global Supply Chain Disruption,” by Rich Paschall, SERENDIPITY, April 15, 2020.
Sending and Receiving Stuff,” by Rich Paschall, SERENDIPITY, May 9, 2020.
Note: I worked in freight forwarding for 35 years. I have worked for Air Canada Cargo for the past year.

Categories: #Airplanes and flying, #Food, Rich Paschall

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18 replies

  1. Reblogged this on rjptalk and commented:

    This was up a few weeks ago on SERENDIPITY. Since then the global supply lines continue to struggle to get back on track. Be sure to click on “View original post” at the bottom to head over to for the rest of the article.


  2. You know Rich, we are going to have to do a rethink on how we do business and there is going to be a period of chaos and reorganization.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Our food has nearly doubled in price. Where we could buy a week’s food for the three of us for around $150 before quarantine, now it costs MORE than $300. We do have some locally grown food just beginning to show up in the markets and ironically, our farms which have been doing poorly are suddenly a very big deal. We can get (easily) eggs, milk, honey and now strawberries. Squash is coming into season as well as cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and with a little luck, peaches. Soon (I hope!) we will have fresh corn. We don’t grow mountains of corn, but what we do grow is absolutely delicious.

    Everything is organic. Not because we are such believes in organic produce, but because we have such a high water level, fertilizer seeps into the aquifer, and if we kill the aquifer, we are all in big, permanent trouble.

    We have no slaughterhouses. I’m sure that the individual farms raise a few pigs and beef cattle for personal use, but it doesn’t go to the stores. There is a huge chicken farm nearby. They have a big restaurant (no open right now, of course), but they also sell it in their shop. It costs twice the imported prices but it is very good and their chickens roam free.

    Anyone with a back that works grows acorn squash (by November I’ve overdosed on squash), tomatoes, and onions. Also round, red potatoes. Some people have started growing jalapenos, too. In this limited rural area, summer is the only time you can get fresh local fruits and vegetables. After September and October (apple season — we have gigantic orchards for apples and they are great apples … and the farmers keep cross-breeding new varieties, albeit our local apples are much more expensive than the imported ones. Probably not THIS year!

    Not much fish except via Canada where they farm salmon. We used to have wonderful fish, but they overfished the region and it’ll be decades before we can get fish from the ocean again. Our rivers are good for trout — if you like trout and none of us do — and while down on the Cape they are farming lobster, there aren’t enough of them for more than their immediate areas.

    New England had the biggest and best fishing fleets in the world. All gone. The fleets are gone and the areas are now filled with private boats. Which is fine, but they don’t bring in fish.

    The fisherfolk were warned yearly to NOT go to George’s Banks because that was where they spawned. Garry covered those stories and he always came back shaking his head at the thick-headedness of the fleets. Yes, they’d need to raise prices and wouldn’t be able to bring in the volume of fish they had before, but if they didn’t stop harvesting the fisheries, there would be no more fish at all.

    Eventually, when no one cooperated, they closed down the areas about five years ago (maybe it was longer — has swept by so quickly — before there were no more fish to breed. The coast guard patrols the area and there are all these little wars at sea. If we don’t poison the waters, fish will come back — and that’s if we manage to keep the Canadians and Japanese from trawling the areas.

    Seafood, the delight of New England is gone. We do get great eggs and butter, though. The milk is great, but we have a lot of people here who have inspected cows, so they don’t homogenize the milk. Garry loves the cream on the top. I stopped buying it. After he steals the cream, even the dogs won’t drink it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We have farmers’ markets here from mid summer to October. It can be a little more expensive than the supermarket, but as you say, maybe not this year. Corn is abundant in Illinois. We can generally get it quite cheap from mid sumer on. Later comes the watermelon. Everyone grows tomatoes. I usualy do but I have not been out to get some, and none of the “vounteers” have come up this year.
      There are a few meat packing plants left here, but not like there were when we were hog butcher to the world, or something like that.
      Nobody is eating anything that comes out of Lake Michigan. I’m not anyway.



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