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Grocery stores challenged by shopping surge, supply chain bottlenecks

(WCAX)
Published: Mar. 19, 2020 at 4:23 PM EDT
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Walk into almost any grocery store and it's clear Vermonters are rattled by the coronavirus, leading to empty shelves and supply chain issues. Industry officials say that with the demand outstripping supply, they are urging shoppers to avoid hoarding and to help relieve pressure on stores and suppliers.

Stores across Vermont are facing shortages of toilet paper, cleaning supplies and meat products.

"We ordered probably 60 cases of toilet paper, we got 10," said Tom Mehuron, the owner of Mehuron's Supermarket in Waitsfield.

Behind the counters, grocery store staff, distributors and producers are working around the clock to fill shelves.

"The CDC has recommended purchasing for two to three weeks, not two to three months," said Erin Sigrist, President of the Vermont Retail & Grocers Association. She says larger retailers are on allocation -- meaning they're limited to what they can order. "If you've ordered 20 percent of that product in the past month of the past quarter, you're only going to get 20 percent of that product moving forward."

And those products can't get anywhere without drivers. State leaders say Vermont already has a shortage of drivers. The coronavirus has put the pressure on an already strained line of work.

"If you get a company that has 30 drivers and they lose a couple because of illness or something, it just puts that much more pressure on the trucking company," said Sen. Dick Mazza, D-Grand Isle County, who also runs a Colchester grocery business.

The federal government is removing restrictions on how long drivers can be on the road to help goods arrive faster and business leaders are taking action at the state level.

"Hopefully we can alleviate some of the job loss and help with some of the people that are looking for work right now," Sigrist said.

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