MANCHESTER, N.H. – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) joined with local business leaders at the Brown Avenue UPS Distribution Center on Friday morning to discuss ongoing concerns related to the nation’s supply chains and what that means for New Hampshire.
The Granite State is not alone when it comes to supply chain disruption, with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting supply chains for businesses across the country and across the world. However, New Hampshire Grocers’ Association President and CEO John Dumais says that northern New England has been significantly impacted due to its relative isolation from the country’s major ports.
Between the logistical concerns, the shortage of available staff for New Hampshire grocers and the difficulty for agricultural producers to react quickly to shifts in consumer trends, local supermarkets will face pandemic-related challenges for at least another year.
“(Grocers) are tired,” said Dumais. “They’ve been dealing with these issues since the very beginning (of the pandemic. We’ve worked with the state on this, the Governor has been very good with dealing on this and helped us with protocols and we’ve complied with them. We’re used to dealing with this, but we hoped there would be an end to it. We know how to deal with this now, things are more efficient than a year ago, but we expect this to be long term.
Dumais said that some wholesalers have been stocking up for expected holiday-related rushes on some items since June due to fears of unexpected consumer demand shifts or supply chain disruptions, and other parts of the New Hampshire economy beyond grocery stores are also facing challenges.
Nancy Kyle, President and CEO of the New Hampshire Retail Association, says that one company in Portsmouth was unable to produce hot fudge due to a three-week COVID-19 shutdown in Vietnam that impacted the production of lids they use on the jars of the hot fudge, which was then further delayed due to further delays at the nation’s ports.
Kyle also expressed concern over the impact of inflation on New Hampshire retailers.
“It’s the perfect storm,” she says “I think we’re in this for the long haul, I think we’ll have to continue reinventing the wheel.”
Shaheen was pleased to receive feedback from the assembled local leaders, noting that even though immediate action is needed to address the nation’s supply chain disruption, long-term changes are also needed as well.
Some near-future actions she said that could be taken to alleviate supply chain disruptions include allowing 18-year-old drivers with commercial drivers’ licenses to drive across state lines with mentor drivers, something they cannot do now. She also referenced language in the over $1 trillion infrastructure bill being discussed in Congress that would look to cultivate the U.S. semiconductor industry.
Shaheen also told the assembled local business leaders that President Biden is adamantly opposed to raising taxes at the gas pump and said increased COVID-19 testing and vaccination rates will be critical. In regard to those vaccination rates, she criticized the New Hampshire Executive Council’s decision to not accept $27 million in federal funding to increase vaccination rates in the state, noting the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ announcement that the rejection of the funding will delay local vaccination efforts.