Supply shortages cost business millions
Businesses around Samoa are facing losses of millions of tala after major disruptions to the supply of chicken and other staples have forced them to impose rations on customers.
A vessel from the United States which is the sole source of Samoa’s chicken supply, has been struck by mechanical failures - which has delayed supplies of meat and poultry to wholesalers and restaurants for six weeks.
Meanwhile, the supply of other goods have been affected by an international coronavirus-related delay which is affecting much of China’s exports world over.
Some Samoan businesses are urgently seeking alternative supplies from neighbouring nations as they face mounting costs. Others are hopeful of a resolution this week.
The Manager of Chan Mow Wholesale, Siveni Chan Mow, puts the cost at $3 million tala - as delays in chicken are also compounded by shortages such as rice, sugar and other made-in-China staples.
“All our chicken meat comes from U.S. while our beef and pork supply is from Australia,” he said.
“We are short on chicken because of the cargo that has been cancelled due to issues with the vessel while our other meat supply from Australia has been affected due to the coronavirus.
“Australia has prioritised other countries to export meat while we are left hanging, looking for other suppliers to assist us with our stock.”
Chicken is one of the most widely consumed products in Samoa. The flow-on effect to the nation’s broader retail sector is still being counted.
Their customers are now restricted to buying chicken in kilograms instead of cases until supply problems are normalised - potentially sending shockwaves through the economy
Mr. Chan Mow said supplies from China - children’s nappies, tissues and other products - have been directly affected by the virus, known as C.O.V.I.D.-19.
“Some of our suppliers from China have had to close down and some have had their workers being prohibited from going to work because of their own restrictions,” he said.
“We are directly affected with what is happening there and the majority of what we still have on the shelves are canned foods.
“As you know it’s cheaper to buy from there but with the disease we have to look at alternative suppliers from other countries which are costly too.”
Mr. Chan Mow said the company’s small storage space has led to them running out of stock before other wholesalers.
One of the biggest retail suppliers in the country, Ah Liki Wholesale has also been hit by supply issues - albeit of a lesser scale.
Ah Liki Wholesale General Manager, Asiata Alex Brunt, said the vessel carrying the poultry supply for the company has just left Honolulu and is on its way.
He said the delay from the shipment is causing an entire meat shortage mainly chicken for the company as it is the most consumed meat in the country.
However, Asiata said there is no need to panic as the company’s poultry supply is arriving tonight [Monday night] that will last for a week until the next vessel arrives.
“We have been out of chicken for a whole week and it has affected all our retail shops,” he said.
“It has [had] a negative impact on all businesses with food supplies but we hope to normalise supplies by end of the week.”
Asked where the company is getting its chicken supply to cover delayed shipment, Asiata said they are sourcing goods from America.
“We had to change some logistics and [make] certain deals to get the supply,” he said.
“There is an impact but I haven’t had the chance to quantify it. But the supply will be normalised and the food supply is still secure.”
Several supermarkets have imposed restrictions on buyers in buying chicken cases in bulk, limiting customers to buy one case per person.
Other supermarkets have stopped selling cases of chicken and told customers they can only buy them per kilo.
McDonald’s had also been affected by the cargo breakdown and loss of meat supplies into the country.
As of late Sunday the customer was short of any burgers other than chicken-based sandwiches, a restaurant employee said.
Earlier on Sunday the franchise had run out of chicken nuggets.
A notice posted to the company’s Facebook page said McDonald’s is running low on products generally and are waiting for airfreight but due to restrictions imposed on incoming airlines into Samoa their supplies have not arrived as expected.