A supermarket in Georgetown, Guyana fully stocked with baby formula.
Photo by Bert Wilkinson

As authorities scramble to beat back a nationally embarrassing baby formula shortage in the US, the majority of Caribbean Community countries say they either have adequate supplies or are waiting on additional incoming shipments from the US or Europe.

Supermarket and megastore shelves across the 15-nation bloc are displaying up to six or more different brands of baby formula, ranging from the more familiar names such as Enfant Grow to Lactogen to SMA to the lesser known ones like Promil and Oilo Gold among others.

In the southern Caribbean nations like Trinidad, Guyana and Suriname, the shortage is not even a media or discussion issue, except, for in Trinidad, where the Supermarket Association of Trinidad and Tobago (SATT) recently assured the public that there is no shortage and will not likely be unless the global supply chain experience dramatic changes. Shelves are overflowing with various brands and no one appears to be panic buying. The response came from media queries.

 The present stock position ensures that supermarket shelves continue to have sufficient options of baby formula for concerned parents during this period,” SATT said in a statement this week, noting that “while some stock keeping units have been affected by recalls, which is a regular occurrence, the basis of the present stock position ensures that supermarket shelves continue to have sufficient options of baby formula for concerned parents during this period.”

In the northern Caribbean, countries including The Bahamas and associate member, The Cayman Islands, authorities there are keeping a close eye on formula availability with some Cayman Islands outlets limiting sales to four units per buyer to both avoid hoarding, price gouging and eventual shortages.

“We have placed a purchasing limit of four cans of baby formula per customer to discourage hoarding and panic buying. We hope this will help ensure that everyone who needs it can get baby formula for their family,” said an official of Kirks Supermarket. “We are still receiving regular weekly shipments of popular UK brands like HiPP and Aptamil. However, we are doing our due diligence with vendors to confirm our supply situation,” local CNS news reported Tuesday.

At nearby Foster’s, spokesman Julian Foster the supermarket is doing all in its power to ensure adequate supplies going forward, noting that “while we are facing some challenges with some brands due to the supply issues in the US, we’re looking for alternative supply in other markets to ensure we’re able to continue to have product on the shelf. We are taking no chances when it comes to quality and safety. We understand that this situation is worrisome to parents and know how important infant formula is for babies and children who rely on it. We are doing all we can to reduce disruption.”

Despite its mere 50-mile proximity from Florida, Bahamian officials reported no shortage as of Tuesday, with the Tribune newspaper quoting Super Value spokesman Rupert Roberts as saying all is well so far.

“When I checked with the buyer, they wouldn’t let us put 1,000 cases in the warehouse and hoard it. But we have it, and I don’t expect it to hit The Bahamas the way it has in the US with empty shelves. I don’t expect it. I would advise consumers not to stock up. We don’t expect problems internationally. It hasn’t affected internationally. All of the local agencies that represent the milk here have kept us up-to-date. Thank goodness it’s not going to affect us. I can’t imagine the public going back to evaporated milk,” Roberts told the Tribune newspaper.

Caribbean governments have not intervened in what is largely seen as a private sector/retail issue but most have expressed worry about increases in prices for basic items including baby formula in the wake of supply shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and recalls on at least one brand on the US market owing to safety concerns.