Vancouver Island’s food supply chain remains strong and healthy

WatchAs people empty store shelves all across the Island during the COVID-19 pandemic, the food supply chain remains strong. As Jasmine Bala tells us, experts say there's nothing to be worried about.

Hundreds of shelves piled high with food. That’s what ColdStar Solutions’ warehouse looks like during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s a clear sign the Island’s food supply is strong and not going anywhere.

“There’s lots of supply, trucks are coming in every day and we’re having to ramp up our staff levels and things like that to catch up,” said Kelly Hawes, the CEO of the transport company that specializes in hauling food product. “But there’s plenty of food for Vancouver Island.”

As shoppers all across Canada empty stores, many are concerned about how our food chain is going to hold up while people are being told to self-isolate, self-quarantine and practice social distancing.

But experts say there’s nothing to worry about.

“There’s no concern that we’re going to run out of food,” said Mike von Massow, a food economist and professor at the University of Guelph.

“Our food system is robust and resilient and any shortages we’re seeing in the grocery store now are temporary because of unanticipated blips in demand.”

Hawes said the reason we’re seeing these temporary shortages is because of the way the supply chain operates.

“We bring the product over as it’s being produced, so that’s why we only have three days [of supply in storage] technically,” Hawes explained. “However, if there was a need to have more, we can do that. It just means, the products we’re going to bring over, we’ll bring more at a time.”

This method of delivery is called ‘Just in Time’ delivery. Distributors only bring in as much inventory as they need, based on experience and forecasts, to satisfy demand while saving on cost and making sure products are fresh.

“What happens is due to a lack of buffer inventory, when there is a higher than expected demand, the system runs out on a temporary basis,” said von Massow.

“We still have lots of raw material, we still have lots of basic ingredients. We just, at the production [stage] — where we’re producing it literally just in time for demand — haven’t anticipated that increase for demand and what happens is we fall behind.”

So what needs to happen to get our stores back to normal? “My advice is stay calm and carry on,” von Massow said.

“People just need to buy their normal groceries as they would,” said Hawes. “The grocery stores will get caught up very quickly here.”

In the meantime, ColdStar Solutions and other food supply companies are playing catch up and Hawes said it’s going to take about a week for supply to get back to normal in stores.

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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