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Why your favorite grocery items may not be in Gainesville stores

A menu from Zeezenia International Market that alerts customers of certain food shortages.
Zeezenia International Market’s kitchen is not serving certain food items. International shipments from the Middle East have experienced production shortfalls and price increases. (Jacqueline Macia/WUFT News)

When Adriana Cruz goes grocery shopping, ingredients for lamb burgers and chicken sandwiches are at the top of her list.

But since September, Cruz has struggled to cross these items off her shopping list because they are rarely in stock at Zeezenia International Market, located at 2325 SW 13th St.

“I have been coming to Zeezenia’s since I’ve been at UF, and I’ve seen a lot of items out of stock, especially in the past months,” Cruz said.

Pandemic-related shipment delays and supply shortages, and increased worldwide demand, have created supply chain backlogs for grocery stores, restaurants and other businesses across the nation.

Zeezenia International Market, a local grocery store that sells Middle Eastern products, has been hit hard by these shortages. As a result, it has experienced delays and increased prices for essential products, including rice, pasta, flour and oil.

Supply chain backlogs began when the pandemic hit and have continued to worsen, said store owner Zeezenia Ebrahim. Most products are from India and the Middle East, regions where international shipments have experienced the longest delays.

Products used to arrive weekly, Ebrahim said. Since the pandemic, they arrive in a month — if at all.

“Since COVID hit, we noticed, especially in the past six months, every time we get a shipment from a company, we don’t get everything that we ordered,” she said. “The prices are ridiculously high.”

Prices for some products have increased drastically. Meat prices have tripled, so the store had to follow suit. Five dollars’ worth of dates, which used to ship for around $30, is now going for $80.

“Because we raise our own animals and the food prices for the animals have tripled, we had to increase our prices for meat,” Ebrahim said.

In addition to product shortages, the market also struggles to find employees.

“Nobody wants to work,” Ebrahim said. “When we hire people, they just want to start with the top dollar, and we can’t do that because we are a small business.”

Other Gainesville grocery stores like India Baazar, located at 3550 SW 34th St., are dealing with overseas shipping delays and price increases.

Containers that used to cost around $10,000 now cost upward of $35,000, store manager Jay Patel said.

“Frozen foods, rice and pretty much everything has been affected,” he said. “In the past six months, shipping has skyrocketed.”

However, some grocery stores have noticed a shift in shipping delays and supply shortage issues. La Aurora Latin Market, located at 3721 W. University Ave., has had most items restocked over the past few weeks, employee Tanya Nuñez said.

One of the store’s bestselling items, the Venezuelan flour Harina Pan, had not been in stock for three months, Nuñez said. It also wasn’t selling Malta Polar, a popular Venezuelan drink, for a few weeks due to shipping issues.

National chains like Trader Joe’s also could not avoid shipping shortages. The store, located at 3724 SW Archer Road, has seen more items in stock, but the demand for certain products is still very high, store captain Daniel Kelleher said.

“The demand in areas like meat right now is exceeding the supply chain, so we’re having trouble with that,” Kelleher said. “Anything coming from Southeast Asia is experiencing either production delays or delays in getting products off the ships.”

Angela Pinto, a regular customer at Trader Joe’s, said she has noticed that certain food items, including the store’s supply of chicken, have been running low for the past few months. She visits the store about two or three times a month.

“I came in today hoping the raspberry and vanilla cream bars were back, but they haven’t been here for weeks,” Pinto said. “Luckily, I was able to get my favorite chips, the rolled corn tortilla chips.”

And she hopes she will soon stroll into Trader Joe’s and find the raspberry and vanilla cream bars awaiting on the shelf.

Jacqueline is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing