Some people are prone to making decisions based on fear and sometimes from a place of insufficient or flawed information.
We are not surprised by increasing rumours of possible food shortages this Christmas as we seek to return our economy to a place of normalcy.
The holiday season is not only among the holiest periods on the Christian calendar, but it is the time of year when businesses make their most significant sales.
In fact, retailers in Bridgetown have long said that the sales volumes they achieve during the Christmas season often sustain their enterprises during the lean first quarter of the new year.
Truth be told, 2020 could be assigned to the dust heap as a lost year for most businesses in Barbados, and 2021 could turn out to be more of the same, save these last few months of possible curfew eases.
It was a year in which we hoped to be spared the worst of COVID-19, but it has evolved into a different kind of trauma, as the confidence placed in vaccines was not enough to protect us from the contagion brought about by the pandemic.
Supply shortages have become the latest worry for consumers around the world, and we in the region because of our import dependency have been caught in the whirlwind.
When the pandemic started, the world faced significant gluts, as large producers of everything from corn, wheat, and poultry, to clothing, shoes and other consumer items struggled with excess stock.
With millions of people around the world shuttered as part of the mass mitigation measures against the rapid spread of the disease, demand for products including fuel plummeted.
What resulted was a natural progression.
Manufacturers cut production in the face of significant losses. During the pandemic, big retail names closed their doors due to decimated sales.
So much has occurred during the pandemic, it is easy to forget that some of the biggest corporate names went bankrupt. They included Hertz, the car rental giant which went under. It was also joined by the iconic brand J C Penny which filed for bankruptcy last year, among others.
Now as the world tries desperately to put the pandemic behind it, we are discovering that instead of gluts and overstock, there are now serious shortages.
Global supply chain disruption is the new buzz phrase. It is no longer an esoteric reference but a real-life challenge especially for small island states like us, who produce little and import much.
Grocery Gazette out of the United Kingdom, said the food retail sector there was “struggling under a deficit in workers and with panic buying surging once again, Christmas food shortages appear to be on the horizon, especially with the rise in COVID cases”.
It added: “Anxiety over food supplies is spiking across the country, with 55 per cent of consumers citing fears that food will run out by the time the festive season arrives.”
In fact, one of the most well-known British labels Waitrose, reported that Britons were so concerned about the possibility of food shortages “that 22, 000 people had booked a Christmas delivery slot from as early as October 2, twice the number of this time last year”.
What all this demonstrates to us as consumers in Barbados is that while we wait for the ballyhoo surrounding Republic/Independence Day, some among us are worried that food items might become scarce.
At this stage, it is a genuine fear of many Barbadians as they watch fossil fuel energy prices rise. They know that slowed crop and meat production cannot be whipped back into place simply because consumers have decided en masse that they are ready to turn the corner on COVID and spend some of the money they hoarded during the most uncertain periods of the pandemic.
And so, the assurance today from President of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce & Industry Mr Anthony Branker that there would be no food shortages on the island this coming Christmas, was a welcome move.
“We heard the rumours, and we were proactive, and we surveyed the major importers across the island. We do have adequate food and supplies on the island, so we are confident we will not have any issues going into Christmas,” the BCCI head told the media.
Mr Branker did concede that there may be some items that will be impacted by the ongoing supply chain issues but for the most part, suppliers and retailers were “comfortable that we have adequate stocks of items, and we are satisfied there is nothing to be alarmed about when it comes to the provision of goods and services on the island”.
Having gone through what we have experienced over the last two years, it is understandable that anxiety levels are high about most developments. We have been through the toilet paper fiasco, and we certainly do not want to have social media posts with shoppers warring over hams or turkeys in our supermarket aisles.