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Officials caution: Stop hoarding. Panic-buying causes problems

HOUGHTON — The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) is cautioning Michigan residents against panicking during the current COVID-19 outbreak, according to a March 20 press release from the Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB). MDARD advises that this is a time to prepare, not panic.

“Flooding the grocery and convenience stores does not allow them time to properly restock items consumers are looking to buy,” MDARD stated. “While the supply chain is intact, and the food and items are available, giving grocery stores time to replenish inventory is critical to ensure everyone has access to what they need at the store.”

According to state and federal officials, current food shortages in grocery stores are not reflective of current food supplies, but are the result of panic-buying. In fact, by all accounts, there are no shortages of anything, including toilet paper.

“There is plenty of food in this country. There is no food shortage,” Clay Detlefsen, said in a recent podcast. Detlefsen is senior vice president of regulatory and environmental affairs for the National Milk Producers (NMPF). “We have a bit of a distribution problem caused largely by consumers, in essence, over-consuming.” This according to MFB release.

Companies producing toilet paper report the same problem, according to CBS News’ Money Watch. Kate Gibson reported on March 18 that America has toilet paper, but keeping shelves stocked is the hard part, again, because of panic-buying causing over-consuming.

Procter & Gamble said it is shipping record-high levels of Charmin and other brands.

“Demand continues to outpace supply at the moment, but we are working diligently to get product to our retailers as fast as humanly possible,” a spokesperson said in an email, stated Gibson. “We continue to manufacture and ship Charmin to our retailers,” Coronavirus-related panic buying is making it difficult for retailers to keep toilet paper on store shelves, she stated, but unlike face masks and hand sanitizer, there is no actual shortage, according to the companies that make them.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order issued earlier this week required all places of public accommodation, including restaurants, closed to the public for on-premises consumption until March 30 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, protect the public health, and provide essential protections to vulnerable Michiganders.

Michigan Farm Bureau President Carl Bednarski stated in the March 20 press release that Gov. Whitmer’s order has forced the food-processing industry to expand operating hours, and redirect processing and packaging of foods that would normally have been destined to food service establishments. Transitioning from bulk goods to consumer-friendly packaged products is no small task, Bednarski said.

According to Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association Vice President of Government Affairs John McNamara, restaurants normally provide 51% of the meals consumed on a daily basis. Based on 2018 figures, Michigan is home to 16,543 eating and drinking establishments, with $17.9 billion in estimated sales, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Detlefsen, said shortages of consumer staples in grocery stores strained by responses to coronavirus-related restrictions should begin easing, as soon as within a week.

Gary McDowell, director of MDARD, said that while it is important that Michigan takes the necessary steps to protect public health, MDARD realizes the importance of supporting local retail, eateries and stores.

“You can still get your favorite foods, just in a different way than before, as we work together to reduce the spread,” McDowell is quoted as saying. “I urge you to continue to support your area businesses, who are often the foundation of our local communities, by buying gift certificates for later use, getting take-out or delivery.”

Meegan Holland of the Michigan Retailers Association said that that organization is monitoring and interpreting the latest state and federal aid packages for their 5,000 member businesses – some of which are struggling during the COVID-19 spread, the Farm Bureau release stated.

“But some stores are doing well – like grocery stores,” she is quoted as saying, noting that Michigan Retailers is also encouraging shoppers not to hoard items like toilet paper, milk and produce.

“Grocers are working really hard to keep the stores clean and shelves stocked,” Holland continued. “I am told a family of four can get by with 17 rolls of toilet paper in a couple of weeks. Just buy what you need and there will be enough for everyone.”

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