An independent Ottawa grocer says a major supplier of Mediterranean dry goods has not been able to fill its orders, leaving her customers to find empty shelves as they prepare for COVID-19 self-isolation.
Marilyn Dib, operations manager for Cedars & Co. Food Market in Old Ottawa South, said the store has had trouble with one supplier more than others: the unrelated Cedar Phoenicia Group.
"They don't just [supply] grains. They have tahini, they have pickles, they have oils. These are essentials for people for cooking, especially when you're going to be in isolation for more than 10 days," Dib said.
In her most recent phone calls with Cedar Phoenicia, Dib said she's been told their March 14 order would take time to fill, primarily because the supplier is prioritizing stores run by its ownership group, Metro and Adonis.
Given her 10-year relationship with Cedar Phoenicia, Diab said that's been disappointing to hear.
"My patience started running out as customers started to come in asking why we did not have dry goods on our shelf. It's not the norm. We didn't have anything on our shelves," she said.
Her other suppliers in Ontario and Quebec have been able to meet her store's orders, Dib added.
Volume 'unlike anything' seen before
Metro, which acquired Cedar Phoenicia in 2017, said in a statement it was working to fill all its clients' orders, including both Metro and Adonis as well as independent stores.
"While our supply chain is robust and functioning well in many ways, we are also experiencing a volume unlike anything we have had to manage before," the statement said.
"We are doing everything we can to deliver to all of our clients as soon as possible. There may be some delays, but we are making every effort to supply to all stores."
There have indeed been disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Yanick Lavoie, vice-president of finance for APICS Ottawa, a professional association for supply chain managers.
Those disruptions, Lavoie said, may mean businesses will have to re-evaluate partnerships that left them reliant on just one supplier.
"That thinking will probably have to be revisited for many of the products that we buy as supply chain professionals," Lavoie said.
As for Dib, she said she's starting to fill her shelves again thanks to another supplier, the Shah Trading Company, which has provided her with bulk orders of dry goods.