Sat | May 30, 2020

Shutdown won’t affect port - But manufacturers worried about sourcing raw materials, hoarding

Published:Wednesday | March 18, 2020 | 12:25 AMKarena Bennett/Business Reporter
Mark Williams, CEO of Kingston Wharves Limited.
Mark Williams, CEO of Kingston Wharves Limited.

The shortage of raw materials on the world market used to manufacture sanitation products has forced local manufacturer to slash its customer list for cleaning agents and limit sales to individuals.

Such action is meant to address what is now considered to be an artificial shortage, brought on by ‘panic buying’ and hoarding.

Bleach manufacturer Paramount Trading Jamaica indicated in a statement issued jointly with the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association, JMEA, that it will be pulling back on supplying the retail and commercial market, while prioritising sales to the healthcare sector, law enforcement and tourism industry – all of which it says are either on the front line fighting the spread of the coronavirus or at elevated risk of exposure.

“We are aware that this policy has affected some of our customers who desire to purchase unusually large quantities of our products. However, we ask for your cooperation and understanding at this time, as we do our best to satisfy the national demand,” Graham said.

The company is now pushing regular and correct hand-washing techniques with soap in light of the supply crisis for raw materials.

Over the past week, consumers across Jamaica have been spending on average of one hour in long lines shopping for grocery items and sanitation products in mixed reaction to fears of food shortage and contraction of the coronavirus.

That trend caused large food conglomerate GraceKennedy to assure Jamaicans that there was enough food in its warehouses, including canned and preserved products, rice, corned beef and mackerel, to last between six to eight weeks. And that there are additional finished goods and raw material inventory for the conglomerate en route and will be arriving regularly over the next four months.

As to the operations at the port, the word from traders such as GraceKennedy, as well as the JMEA, and port operator Kingston Wharves Limited, is similar: so far goods have been moving smoothly.

No scaling back

As an essential service, the ports will not be scaling back to any significant degree under the shutdown, but Kingston Wharves CEO Mark Williams said the company has triggered its business continuity plan, which means non-essential staff will work from home.

“For those who have to be here, they are placed in teams so in the event of quarantine, we know who should be separated,” he told the Financial Gleaner.

Williams, who heads Jamaica’s second largest port operation, says there have been no reduction in goods nor service disruption.

GraceKennedy’s six factories across Jamaica are increasing production of key high demand products, including viennas, baked beans and the Grace Cock Soup while preparations have also been made for the swift restocking of shelves across the retail and wholesale chain.

It concerns companies producing consumer items that the stockpiling of goods is creating artificial demand that could pressure their supply chains.

“While shipping capacity has been reduced globally, Jamaica’s port itself is fine. Our main concerns are the global shortage of raw materials and the businesses that are hoarding goods and hiking prices,” said JMEA President Richard Pandohie, who also heads large conglomerate Seprod Limited.

“We implore persons engaging in hoarding and price gouging to desist from this practice,” he said.

Graham noted in the statement that the company has since been in dialogue with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries to discuss its role in supporting the national response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“This is a challenging period that requires all key stakeholders to ensure that Jamaica responds decisively and collaboratively. Paramount and similar local manufacturers have now become critical providers to many essential services and the JMEA fully support their move to prioritise the men and women on the COVID front line,” Pandohie said.

karena.bennett@gleanerjm.com