Agriculture minister urges Albertans not to stockpile food

Alberta's agriculture minister said Thursday he is working to ensure Albertans can access safe, affordable food as its COVID-19 response continues.

The province is working with industry to monitor the food supply closely, Devin Dreeshen told a news conference Thursday.

Shortages of certain items that some stores are experiencing does not mean food supplies are running low, he said.

He told Albertans there is no need to stockpile food and supplies, which puts unnecessary pressure on the food supply chain.

The province is working with retailers on supply pressures for high-demand items and monitoring availability in rural, remote and Indigenous communities, he said.

"There are a lot of moving parts to get food to market and on kitchen tables," Dreeshen said.

Food supply 'will remain safe'

Major retailers say they are seeing a 50-per-cent increase in total sales and sales per customer have doubled, he reported.

"I want to assure all Albertans that our food supply will remain safe, secure and accessible," Dreeshen said.

"Food is essential and we are in constant contact with our food suppliers and we will do whatever it takes to keep them open.

"Again, I would like to reiterate to Albertans that you do not need to stockpile food and supplies."

Grocery shoppers are scooping up meat and long shelf-life products, putting undue pressure on stores to restock, he said.

"We have seen that when it comes to meat, that it's been a high demand, or things like Kraft Dinner, long shelf-life products.

"You'll have individuals that will go and fill up their entire cart with a certain product. And then it's really just up to the grocer to make sure that they are restocking as fast as they can.

"That image of seeing an empty shelf … it's not a supply issue, it's an overbuying or a panic on the demand side."

Food banks in need of support

Dreeshen said the government is in contact with food banks, and looking at the possibility of financial assistance to help them get the supplies they need.

He reminded Albertans to keep making donations to food banks as they support vulnerable Albertans.

Dreeshen also urged the federal government to declare agriculture an essential service.

Canada's agriculture sector has warned of higher prices and potential food shortages if farming isn't designated an essential service and allowed to do business as usual during the COVID-19 crisis.

While governments maintain supplies are secure, some people worry about empty grocery store shelves, especially in regard to food staples.