With reports in Ontario and elsewhere across Canada that many shoppers have begun hoarding groceries, toilet paper and other goods over fears of a second wave of COVID-19 lockdowns, will store shelves go bare, or will suppliers be able to handle the surge?
Prof. Michael von Massow is a food economist in the University of Guelph’s Department of Food, Agricultural and Resource Economics and studies the performance of food supply chains. He is also the OAC Chair in Food System Leadership.
He said it is important to remember that, just as they were in the spring, these are demand-based shortages rather than supply-based. Manufacturers are having no problems creating product, but it’s being bought en masse by panicking shoppers.
“There may be some short-term, demand-based shortages, but the system is better prepared this time to respond. We’ve learned from the first wave and things will not be as disrupted this time,” he said.
Grocery stores were considered essential services during the lockdowns in March and April and will remain open for business even if COVID-19 case numbers increase.
“Food will be available. The system is just adjusting to changes in demand,” he said.
Speaking to CTV Ottawa earlier this week, von Massow said the empty toilet paper aisles many shoppers are already seeing are the result of shopper panic, not any real supply problems.
“When we see these empty shelves, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that ‘Oh well, we must be running out because these shelves are empty,’” he said. “I think part of it is we need to make certain that we’re ok, and that’s made worse when we feel uncertain about the situation.”
He is available for interviews.
Prof. Michael von Massow