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SDDDC· Ten Lessons | Lesson 7. Hoarding

2021-2-1 17:09:40 Comments:0 Views:312 category:SDDDC News

“Owning is owing, having is hoarding”.

--Ursula K. Le Guin 

Hoarding is of all times. The earliest reference to hoarding is found in Dante’s Inferno, an epic poem written in the 14th century. It is interesting to see how people in various nations respond in different ways. 

Hoarding is called ‘hamsteren’ in Dutch and this refers to the hamster. This little creature tends to collect as much as possible feed in its mouth and the space behind its cheeks. It collects the feed for times when less food is available like bees collect nectar for the winter. Squirrels show the same behavior.

The developed countries have not seen a lack of food for 75years. During and shortly after WW-II, there was indeed hunger in Europe, and a lot of people starved. Some elderly people who went through the WW-II period, still tend to keep extra storage of food for emergencies. The younger generations however have never experienced periods of food scarcity. Actually, due to urbanization, the households have become smaller as many singles or couples are living in smaller houses with less space for food storage and have small refrigerators to keep food for only a few days. Due to the 24/7 economy, it is not necessary to store food for more than a few days, and there is just not enough space to keep it. Additionally, people living in cities tend to eat more often in restaurants, order fast food and make use of food delivery services.

When a lockdown was eminent or announced in a lot of countries, especially the people in the cities started hoarding. The alarming news reports made a lot of people afraid of finding empty shelves in the shops and they started hoarding. This led to a group reflex, which indeed resulted in empty shelves. The type of hoarding varied per country. Some extreme examples were the long queues in front of the coffee shops in the Netherlands to score some cannabis.

In the USA, a lot of people bought guns and ammunition, probably because they were afraid of riots and looting. In some countries, like the UK and the rest of Europe, large amounts of toilet paper was bought and stored at home. Apart from these extremes, people showed a tendency to hoard products with long shelf lives, such as rice, wheat, long-life dairy and beans, and vegetables in tin cans. After two or three weeks, the panic buying decreased and most people seemed to be saturated. The emotional panic and chain reaction meant a huge challenge for the shops, retailers, and suppliers. A 24/7response was needed to keep the shops supplied. This all happened in a period in which people had to be extra careful to avoid infections and this consequently led to inefficiencies. By now, this shoppers’ behavior has returned to normal in most countries. In some countries where food availability is an issue even under normal circumstances, some looting-like incidents still occur.

Will we be able to prevent such hoarding in the future? Probably not. As already mentioned, it is of all times. The good news is that people remained quite confident about the economy and did not run to the banks to collect their money, as happened in the Netherlands in 2013 when a large bank was in trouble and had to be saved by the government.

  • The main lesson the dairy industry can learn from this is that we must be able to quickly respond, shift production to long-life products, or increase the capacity to meet the consumers’ needs.

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