'It puts the grocery stores at risk': Fresh produce may become scarce due to supply chain issues
Manitobans may see fewer options for fresh fruits and vegetables – and possibly higher price tags for them – in the weeks ahead.
“We’re being told there’s going to be an issue with produce, fruits and vegetables,” said Munther Zeid, owner and manager of Food Fare, a Winnipeg-based independent grocer.
Right now, Zeid said plenty of produce is still in supply, though that could soon change as inventory shipments are experiencing delays.
“There’s a lot of it sitting on the docks in Vancouver,” he said, “It’s been a few days already so it could be bad by the time shipping starts.”
Food Fare isn’t the only grocery store to experience supply chain-related shipment issues.
“Omicron is basically ripping through the entire food supply chain right across the country, right across North America,” said Gary Sands, vice president of public policy and advocacy for the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers.
Produce inventory is becoming particularly scarce because, amid the winter months, fresh fruits and vegetables are largely coming in from international suppliers, said Sands, and delivery times are getting longer.
Sands said the new vaccine mandate for truckers, which is taking some vehicles off the road, is a contributing factor.
“Certain products, oranges, bananas, fresh fruits and vegetables. We’re definitely not getting those in the quantities or in the timeframes we would expect under normal conditions.”
Truck transport is one of the primary ways produce – and many other products – arrive in the province, according to the Supply Chain Management Association.
With that in mind, rising fuel costs could also mean what fresh fruits and vegetables are available in stores could become more expensive.
“If we see fuel costs continue to stay where they are, or up even further, then yes that becomes part of the total cost of getting those products to the shelves here in Manitoba,” said Richard Reid, executive director of the Manitoba branch of the Supply Chain Management Association.
Hiking up prices, however, isn’t a foolproof plan for grocers, said Reid, as customers may turn away from a higher price tag.
“It puts the grocery stores at risk because it’s a cost to them and if all of a sudden people aren’t buying their products, and they’re having to toss them out, then financially they’re going to take a hit,” said Reid.
At Food Fare, Zeid said some produce may increase by 10 to 20 per cent in price.
But he’s asking customers to not panic buy, which could contribute to the problem.
“If we start hoarding we’ll start feeling it and cause issues that don’t need to happen or prices to go up that don’t need to,” he said.
“It’s supply and demand.”
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