The perils of panic buying in supermarkets for coronavirus
SUPERMARKET shelves have been emptied as a result of coronavirus panic buying, but people who have chosen to support independent shops have been rewarded with fresh produce. “There are no problems with meat going through the system, and our members are getting what they need at the moment,” said Gordon King, executive manager of Scottish Craft Butchers. “Obviously these are difficult times, but we want to promote the use of the local butcher who lives and works in the community.
They are playing their part by offering delivery services for those who need it and acting in a community manner.” Fishmongers, corner shops and health food outlets have also managed to maintain supplies, but supermarkets have begun to limit shoppers’ purchases. Store bosses have issued a plea for people to buy only what they need as the supply chain is still struggling to meet demand.
“The supply chain has had this huge curve ball thrown at it and is doing all it can to cope, but it is struggling,” said a spokesperson for the Road Haulage Association. “Highly unusual shopping habits have led to the chaos and it is not set up for that demand.
The supply chain is normally a well-oiled machine but we don’t have trucks waiting around empty for a time like this. “Demand is lot higher than supply and who knows when it going to catch up with itself. I would imagine it will right itself, but will take a week or two for it to settle back down.
“Haulage firms are moving as much as they normally do but the demand at the front end is higher than usual and the supply chain is struggling to keep up.” Peter Ward, CEO of the United Kingdom Warehousing Association, said the UK was not running out of food but stocks were “seriously depleted”. READ MORE: Coronavirus: Normal life suspended as pubs and cafes told to close
“For tinned and dried food we would expect there to be at least a couple of weeks supply in the chain but my overall view – and it is very general – is that it is down to a matter of four or five days, depending on whether it is rice from India or biscuits from Carlisle,” he said. “There are degrees of concern in terms of how long it is going to take to replenish these stocks up to what we would call normal levels.” Ward added that there were no big shortages of fresh food at the moment, even though there are problems in getting it to supermarkets.
He pointed out that 50% of the food the UK consumes comes from overseas, with 75% of that from Europe. “Maybe this is a dress rehearsal for Brexit,” said Ward. “However, we have been talking to members in Spain and Italy and the view is that although the national media is saying they are in lockdown and the borders are closed, commercial traffic is flowing pretty much as normal, although there are some challenges.
“There is no massive impact as yet but that may change going forward. Who knows what tomorrow might bring.” He said he wasn’t hearing any “scary” stories concerning frozen food supplies either.
“The problem at the moment is because of panic buying. It is a question of escalation of demand.” Ward said one of the main problems at the moment was trying to deliver extra supplies to retailers’ distribution centres.
He said the association had warned the UK Government about potential distribution problems several years ago. READ MORE: Coronavirus: How to contact your MP or MSP during the pandemic “We have been banging on about this for some time as the infrastructure is already creaking and it won’t take much to break it,” said Ward. “I’m not saying anything is broken yet but this consumer demand is really going to test it.
“Any major town centre is facing some sort of challenges with regard to food distribution, given consumer demands. ”The Government has got to wake up to the fact that they can’t make commitments to build 200,000 new homes without understanding that delivery access is needed. “We need to embed logistics into the infrastructure and make sure there is sufficient industrial land for the logistics necessary for food distribution.
You can’t bring huge trucks into a city to serve a growing urban population whose demands are changing. “All the outlets there need to be served by small vehicles which is a very different distribution cycle from a big 40ft truck that goes into an out-of-town Asda. ”We need centres that can handle the final mile within the city boundaries rather than coming from greenfield sites a long way out.”
The UK Government was approached for comment but did not respond before the Sunday National went to press.
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