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Consumers buy in bulk, depleting supermarket supplies

Metro Manila residents are buying goods in bulk, depleting inventories of supermarkets, hours before a typhoon is expected to make landfall.

Consumers have made a mad scramble for items such as sardines, biscuits, instant noodles, candles, batteries, and flashlights, the president of a Philippine supermarket association told GMANews.TV.

“People are alarmed and they are buying more than what they need,” Steven T. Cua, president of the Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association Inc., (Pagasa), said. The industry group is composed of supermarkets that serve the low to upper-middle market.

“Selling areas are crowded and queues are very long,” he said on Friday evening as television news programs aired reports of empty grocery shelves.

Demand for instant food items have surged since these can be prepared and consumed easily, Cua said.

These food items can also be transported with minimal difficulty should consumers be forced to relocate and/or leave their homes in case of floods, he added.

For the past few days, appetite for instant food items was driven by bulk-buying for relief operations for victims of the storm Ondoy.

But on Friday night, consumers stocked up on their supplies, alarmed that a new storm may unleash effects similar to those wrought by ‘Ondoy’ just a week earlier.

In the meantime, demand for candles, batteries, and flashlights was spurred by rumors that the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) will be cutting off power in its areas upon the arrival of typhoon “Pepeng.”

Meralco, Metro Manila’s lone electricity distributor, has denied the report.

To ensure that inventories are well-stocked, supermarkets have switched brands, especially if quality, price, and sometimes even the manufacturer are the same, Cua said.

He also acknowledged that inventories have been reduced as some deliveries were delayed by floods that were caused by record amounts of rainfall a week ago.

But buffer stocks of basic goods remain stable, Cua said.

This view is shared by Corazon C. Curay, logistics director at the Makati-based XVC Logistics Inc. Curay is also the president of the Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines (SCMAP), an industry group that represents firms that store and deliver goods made by manufacturing giants such as San Miguel, Nestle, and Johnson & Johnson.

Damage to inventories has been minimal, Curay told GMANews.TV in an earlier phone interview held four days after Ondoy submerged the Philippine capital.

“Manufacturers just have to catch up on production,” she said, adding that some companies may be forced to sell their products in larger or smaller sizes, depending on their stocks.

Although Curay expects an increase in bulk prices of raw materials, companies will refrain from passing on the hike to its customers since it may translate to lower market share.

She also downplayed apprehensions that delayed deliveries and increased demand will boost basic goods’ prices.

Cua agreed.

Despite reports of increased bulk-buying – which raises the possibility of higher goods prices – neighborhood groceries have yet to buy double of what they usually purchase, Cua said. This indicates that they do not expect higher prices in the short term, Cua explained.

“If they wanted to take advantage of higher prices in the future, smaller stores would have bought more,” Cua said.

“People are just reacting too quickly to news of the storm,” he said. “Consumers should just buy supplies good enough for one and a half days, instead of three.”

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