Government-requested nationwide school closures aimed at tackling the new coronavirus are impacting suppliers of ingredients for school lunches across the nation, with some facing the need to dispose of food already purchased.
The sudden cancellations of school lunch-related orders for March are likely to leave some companies with more food than is needed for deliveries in the month.
School operators “are big customers to tiny companies in rural areas,” said a butcher in the Tohoku region.
The butcher said a municipal government suddenly canceled a ¥2 million deal for March, and that he has no idea what to do with the meat he already purchased.
Emergency closures began at many schools across the nation Monday, following Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s abrupt request last week. The measure is aimed at keeping schools shut until the regular spring break ends in early April.
“I hear that the government will subsidize leave allowances for workers who took time off due to the school closures, but what should business operators like us do?” the man said, angrily.
Around 70 percent of the milk produced by Nagatoshi Milk of Dazaifu, Fukuoka Prefecture, is provided to schools for lunches.
“We’ve been delivering some 120,000 bottles of milk each day for school lunches,” said Satoshi Hasegawa, head of the company.
“Expected sales of ¥65 million disappeared as orders for March were canceled,” said Hasegawa, 65.
A limited amount of the produced raw milk can be made into powdered skim milk and other products. But in the worst case, the remainder will have to be disposed of, he said.
The company is suspending factory operations and having employees take regular paid leave for now. “I can’t see how things will go from April,” he said, anxiously.
While many business operators are struggling with the sudden school closures, there have been some efforts to prevent food waste.
The Ichinomiya Municipal Government in Aichi Prefecture held an event Monday to sell fruits and vegetables that the city had ordered for school lunches at lower-than-usual prices. Some 200 kilograms of daikon, 180 kilograms of carrots and others were sold out on the day.
Major nattō fermented soybean products maker Daruma Shokuhin Inc. of Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, wrote on Twitter that it would give nattō products it had stocked for school lunches to those visiting its main shop due to order cancellations. All 1,000 products prepared were gone in a day.
“I hope the virus crisis will end as soon as possible so that children can eat school lunches again,” a Daruma Shokuhin official said.
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