By Manisha Jha ~ June 3, 2021 ~ Bloomberg News

Demand for cold-storage space in Europe has surged after bars, restaurants and sports venues closed, leaving their suppliers hunting for new customers or somewhere to store the unsold food.

Farmers, manufacturers and retailers in the bloc say it’s nearly impossible to find commercial fridge and freezer space. The shortage is forcing production cuts, and may mean wasting thousands of tons of produce that suddenly has nowhere else to go.

The squeeze is yet another way that the coronavirus is wreaking havoc on the global food industry. From empty meat shelves in the U.S. and growing levels of hunger in Africa, food-supply chains are being stretched across the world. Experts are already predicting climate-controlled warehousing will be a growth industry as companies try to avoid such imbalances in the future.

In Europe, the effects are widespread:

  • Lineage Logistics, the world’s largest temperature-controlled logistics provider, says more than 90% of its cold-storage facilities in the region are already full.
  • In the U.K., there’s barely any room left at all, according to Shane Brennan, chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation.
  • Belgian potato processor Agristo is running out of places to stash its French fries. With its own freezers full up and hardly any space available to rent, the company was forced to cut daily output by about 20%.

The supply-chain disruptions saw the European Commission last week lower its projections for trade with the rest of the world even further, with exports of goods and services this year set to drop as much as 15%.

A recovery in demand and return to normal shipping trade flows will be key to resolving the cold-storage crunch, given the bloc’s status as a net exporter of many food items, said Matteo Iagatti, a supply-chain specialist at the food and agri-research center with Rabobank.

“Shipping cancellations will continue in June and through the entire second and possibly the third quarter this year,” Iagatti said. “This will be a decisive factor that leaves more food stuck in Europe, increasing the system congestion and pressuring food prices further.”

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