Like much of the rest of the world, the Virgin Islands is seeing rising prices and scarcity of some goods because of global supply-chain struggles related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
In response, the territory shouldn’t panic, but it should prepare.
These issues, after all, are likely to get worse before they get better.
Currently, much larger countries including the United States and United Kingdom are struggling with supply gaps, in part because the fallout from the pandemic has led to labour shortages and transportation logjams even while demand for goods rises sharply as Covid-era restrictions lift.
But the hardest hit economies likely will be island nations like the VI, which depend on imports for the great majority of their food and other goods.
In fact, this territory is already seeing troubling warning signs.
Supermarkets and other retailers say that they are struggling to stock some products, the cost of shipping is spiking, and recent numbers from the Central Statistics Office reported a sharp increase in inflation recently.
Still, there is no need for panic-buying, which can greatly exacerbate supply issues. The territory’s suppliers have in place mechanisms to deal with shortages, particularly during hurricane season, and they should be well situated to weather the supply-chain storm as well.
Nevertheless, the territory must keep a close eye on the situation, and the government must liaise with shippers, supermarkets, retailers and others in order to plan in advance a flexible response designed to mitigate potential adverse impacts in the near future.
The focus of this collaboration should include securing crucial supplies like food, fuel, and medicine.
The situation also highlights the importance of working steadily to become more self-sufficient over the medium and longer terms.
Food is a cornerstone of that goal. Though we expect the VI will always rely heavily on imports, more can be done to foster local production.
On the farming side, greenhouses are perhaps the most obvious solution. But they should start small, as we certainly don’t advocate a repeat of the government boondoggle previously built in Paraquita Bay that blew away in Hurricane Irma.
Deep-sea fishing and aquaculture are also worth exploration, though both industries must be carefully managed and regulated in order to ensure long-term sustainability.
The global supply chain crisis is a very real threat that highlights the VI’s particular vulnerabilities.
The territory must not get caught unprepared.