// Don’t panic over coronavirus as food is plentiful, says Tesco chairman John Allan
// Allan says Tesco can keep shelves stocked and withstand shopper hoarding as coronavirus fears induce panic buying
// Earlier this week, former Sainsbury’s boss Justin King called on grocers to prepare for supply chain shortages
Tesco chairman John Allan has said it can keep shelves stocked and withstand shopper hoarding as coronavirus fears induce panic buying.
Speaking to BBC Radio, Allan said that although Tesco’s recent trading had been characterised by heavy buying of certain products, including tissues and hand sanitisers, it was not at a level that threatened the retailer’s supply chain.
It comes as social media is dominated with pictures of empty shelves in supermarkets in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with items like dried pasta, rice and toilet rolls in high demand.
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- Coronavirus: Supermarkets to extend supply chain delivery hours
“There’s plenty of product in the supply chain, there’s plenty of food at Tesco and other supermarkets, and I don’t think anybody needs to panic buy,” Allan told BBC radio.
“We, and I’m sure our competitors, are re-filling our supply chains as rapidly as ever we can.”
Allan also said Tesco would probably only experience a “very short term, temporary” shortage of certain products.
His comments come shortly after M&S non-executive director and former Sainsbury’s chief executive Justin King reportedly called on grocers to prepare for likely shortages in their supply chain, should the coronavirus outbreak escalate.
King also said sudden and large-scale reductions in staff would be far more challenging that the onslaught of panic-buying, and that many fresh food production systems were dependent on labour on a day-to-day basis.
Moreover, on Tuesday, Iceland managing director Richard Walker said shoppers are turning to frozen food as the coronavirus outbreak spreads.
Like Allan though, Walker said there was no need for shoppers to panic buy, with the frozen food grocer reporting “no supply issues” despite the outbreak.
Nonetheless, reports have indicated that the government is planning to extend the hours that supply chain deliveries can be made to supermarkets to help the food industry respond to the coronavirus.
The measures would mean food retailers can increase the frequency of deliveries to their stores and move stocks from warehouses across the country to replenish shelves.
The current rules, which mean deliveries are prohibited overnight, would be temporarily relaxed under the plans.
Cases of coronavirus in the UK have jumped 29 per cent to 590 over the past 24 hours, health authorities said yesterday.
The nationwide death toll from the virus now stands at 10.