Wheat flour shortage leaves businesses scrambling

We're less than two weeks away from Thanksgiving and if you're in need of wheat flour, you may be out of luck.
Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 6:45 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, and if you need wheat flour this year, you may be out of luck.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is leaving store shelves empty and owners scrambling to find the product they rely on.

“I just wanted to purchase some wheat flour items, but - I was totally shocked,” Suresh Kumar Shanmugam said.

He’s one of many regular customers of Royal Bazaar Farmers Market in disbelief over empty shelves.

Wheat flour, which sits at the center of Indian cuisine, is now hard to come by.

“Wheat flour is a main ingredient. Without that, you can not do anything,” Shanmugam said.

India, the world’s second-largest wheat producer, banned international exports of the crop due to record heat waves and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Royal Bazaar left, turning to their last resort.

“Now the flour from India is banned, so everybody is trying to buy from Canada. So they [are] also have some [timing] issues for having wheat,” Aumo Patel, son of the store owner, said.

Once that delivery arrives, wheat flour will be rationed to 1 bag per family.

“It is kind of a[n] emotional thing. You have your own product [in India]. Now you need to depend on other product[s]. You never know how the taste is going to be,” Shanmugam said. “And the quality is questionable.”

Bakeries like Montana Gold Bread Company in Carytown rely heavily on war-torn Ukraine.

“They’re called the ‘breadbasket of Europe.’ And yeah, wheat prices fluctuate, but never as widely as it has this past year or two,” Rich Lahvic, owner of Montana Gold Bread Company, said.

Lahvic has been slammed with high prices and limited resources, making his passion for baking more challenging.

“What used to be a 20-minute process of doing inventory is now probably an hour-and-a-half process,” he said.

Both businesses are now forced to pass down high food prices to customers to stay afloat.