There is no need to panic buy or stock up and hoard food in Alberta amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
That was the message from Alberta government officials, who stressed Thursday morning that the province’s food supply is well established, diverse and stable.
“Alberta’s food supply is and will continue to be secure. We need to make sure everyone can access the essentials that they need,” Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Devin Dreeshen said.
In recent weeks, Dreeshen said major retailers have seen a 50 per cent increase in total sales, and sales per customer have doubled.
There has been a significant increase in the demand for fresh meat and items with a long shelf life such as pasta, Dreeshen explained.
He said while some store shelves have been empty, he stressed that this is a demand issue and that supplies are not running low. He reiterated that Albertans need to stop panic buying in order for stores to keep up with the demand.
“Do not hoard food and daily essentials. The system is intact and people should be mindful of irrational panic buying and the effect it has on their neighbours.”
Dreeshen said provincial officials have been in constant contact with representatives from all levels of the food supply chain, from producers and processors to food retailers. He wanted to reassure Albertans they will continue to have access to safe, affordable food through the pandemic.
“What typically happens is you will have individuals that will go and fill up their entire cart with a certain product and that it’s really up to the grocer to make sure they’re restocking as fast as they can,” he said.
“That image of seeing an empty shelf… It’s not a supply issue. It’s over-buying or panic on the demand side.”
Dreeshen said work is also underway to ensure the borders remain open to essential services, particularly between Canada and the United States.
“A tremendous amount relies on international trade. It’s obvious — you’ll go to a grocery store and see oranges from Florida or avocados from Mexico. There is a tremendous amount of international trade that goes into our regular current food supply system. That’s why it’s critically important to make sure that the border remains open between Canada and the U.S.”
Dreeshen said provisions are in place that exempt truck drivers from the mandatory two-week self-isolation protocol for those returning from international travel. He said work is underway to ensure that provision remains in place.
“They’re doing daily runs. If they had to wait two weeks every time they cross the border… It would essentially crush a lot of our supply chain.”
Emergency contingency plans are being worked on should the border situation with the U.S. change, Dreeshen added.
Dreeshen said retailers can do their part to ensure they’re keeping up with demand by limiting the number of in-demand items customers can buy, reducing hours, adding seniors-only shopping hours and increasing hygiene.
The government is also working with its federal and provincial partners to maintain functioning rail service, ports and commercial trucking systems within Canada and across North America to enable the movement of essential goods.