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Food supply secure, say supermarket leaders

Bermuda's food supply line is secure, supermarket leaders said yesterday.

Tredick Gorham, president of The Supermart, and Will Cox, president of The Waterfront Group that includes Miles Market, provided assurances to consumers.

“Our food supplies are very stable,” Mr Cox said.

Mr Gorham said consumers were hearing rumours of shortages, and buying more supplies as a result.

“But the message is there's plenty, there really is,” Mr Gorham said.

Mr Cox said Miles began stocking up on supplies some four weeks ago.

He said the company worked closely with its US distributors, having watched developments in the United States.

He said: “Supermarkets are facing the same issue in America, the difference is that we have a two-week lag time.

“We don't see a disruption with the exception of if ports close and we lose our ships.”

The Pitts Bay Road outlet is also backed up by on-island food wholesalers, the Miles boss said.

Mr Cox said: “We have a stable supply of food due to the work that has been going on between retailers and wholesalers in Bermuda, who have all been in communication for the last three or four weeks.

“It actually shows that Bermuda's model is better than America's. They have a ‘just in time' inventory model whereas we hold large stocks because of our isolation, and that is presently working well for the island.

“I do believe the island is well stocked.”

Mr Cox said sales volume was up, and there had been a run on staple foods such as pasta and beans over the weekend in case people had to “hunker down for two weeks if in quarantine”.

He added: “It has been similar to hurricane shopping without the power loss.”

Despite assurances, Mr Cox said the island was experiencing “unprecedented times”, and so couldn't know what lies ahead.

“We are in unknown territory,” he said.

Mr Gorham, of The Supermart, said there had been a run on some goods over the weekend due to customers buying in greater quantities than normal, but inventory had already been replenished.

“When there is an unusual increase in volume, the system has the ability to absorb it because there is inventory in the pipeline all the time,” Mr Gorham said.

“Things we ran out of on the weekend will be put on shelves today.”

Mr Gorham said one Supermart customer had purchased six cases of toilet paper.

“That is a bit excessive, so someone else didn't get any that day, but there will be more,” he said.

Mr Gorham said the store received fresh produce from Supermart's wholesale supplier yesterday, while containers of food will arrive today and Thursday.

Meanwhile, The MarketPlace issued a statement to provide advice to customers.

Seth Stutzman, president of The MarketPlace said: “We strongly encourage customers to shop sensibly, shop for what you need and be mindful of others, especially those most vulnerable in our society.

“We are experiencing high volume and our team is working hard to ensure we are stocked to meet growing demand. With no concerns from our suppliers, we have doubled and tripled orders on key items. We are working to keep our shelves stocked as quickly as possible.”

The MarketPlace added that in relation to sanitation and safety, it has “increased the frequency of sanitising high-traffic touchpoints [door handles, carts, surfaces, food service areas etc]”.

The Bermuda Chamber of Commerce provided further information on food supply in an update to members yesterday.

The Chamber stated: “All wholesalers, shippers and dock management report open supply lines with suppliers / stockists still providing products.

“All have a plan for staggering staff to manage around the potential for staff shortages. The shipping companies are working in partnership to ensure that they can support each other and supply Bermuda with necessary items.

“They have expressed an ability to change ports if one closes on the East Coast.”

The Chamber added: “The dock workers have a contingency plan for managing around reduced crews, which may result in slowed service but not a stoppage.”

Safe supply: heads of grocery stores like The Supermart believe the island's food supply chain is secure (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 17, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated March 17, 2020 at 12:57 am)

Food supply secure, say supermarket leaders

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