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Irish consumers assured there is 'no strain on food supply chain' amid bulk buying at supermarkets

One in four people have started stockpiling food.

SUPERMARKETS ACROSS THE country have seen certain shelves completely emptied over the last week, as consumers stock up on tinned goods, hand soap and disinfectant products following confirmation of coronavirus cases in Ireland.

According to research by iReach, one in four people in Ireland have begun stockpiling food with a further 7% stocking up on fuel.

Sales of hand wash products (including hand sanitisers) alone were up 15% in February, Kantar said today.

Charlotte Scott, consumer insight director at Kantar said experts are expecting to see more of an impact towards the end of February and into March as an increased awareness of the virus will lead to an uplift in the sale of healthcare products.

“This coupled with the impact of Storm Jorge in late February may well lead to growing sales of goods typically associated with stockpiling like pasta and tinned or frozen food,” she said.

This increased activity should not be a cause for anxiety, however, according to Aidan Flynn, general manager of Freight Transport Association Ireland, who said there is no problem with the food supply chain.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Flynn said there are no barriers to transporting the kinds of products like tinned goods, pasta and hand soap that people are bulk buying and while supermarkets may sell-out of some products in a day, they will be able to very quickly restock their shelves.

“There is no issue overall in relation to the availability of products other than those that have been well documented like hand sanitiser or face masks.

The supply chain is not experiencing any issues when it comes to food products or clothes and we all have an obligation not to panic-buy because it does have implications for everybody else. There is, overall, no run on demand on certain things and there’s no strain on the supply chain at the moment that is exasperated by this situation.
But it’s important that the public knows there is no real reason at the minute to be doing this – nothing is running out from a retail perspective.

Although Flynn said the bulk buying of food is not a significant concern, he is worried about the workers in the freight transport business who are bringing this food into and around the country.

“From our perspective we’re working to ensure people are kept updated and we’re very much guided by government agencies, checking with the Department of Foreign Affairs in relation to travel advice, for example. 

“We’re focused on disseminating that advice to members and similar to Brexit, we’re talking to them about contingency plans and understanding the issues faced by drivers – when people talk about a shortage of hand sanitisers and not being able to get it, that impacts on them. 

“The advice from the HSE is that washing your hands with soap and water is just as good, but unfortunately mobile workers don’t have access to that. We’re looking to the government to provide solutions for this cohort of people.”

He said it is also important now that companies in this industry consider their duty of care when it comes to their workers.

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“It will be key now to have implementation and delivery of facilities for personal hygiene,” he said. 

“Everybody needs to play their part in this. For the workers too, if they’re feeling unwell they should be following government advice, hold your hand up and tell your employer about it rather than holding back. 

We all have a personal responsibility to be aware of the type of situation we’re in. 

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