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No need to panic over economic impact of coronavirus
HALIFAX -- While it may be hard to predict the economic impact that coronavirus or COVID-19 may have on the Maritime provinces, one expert says we shouldn’t be concerned about food shortages.
"We went through Dorian last fall, we saw a lot of empty shelves but that was a hurricane," said Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University. "This time around it's a virus, we've been talking about a virus for several weeks. The entire supply chain has had a chance to adapt and we've seen companies ramp up production, and that's why we shouldn't worry about running out of anything really. If you see an empty shelf, chances are if you go back 24 hours later, you'll see products on that shelf again."
While supply is not anticipated to be an issue, Charlebois says the amount you pay for it may be.
"The challenge of course are prices,” he said. “To distribute food is costing more, logistically, trucking and things like that. What may save us though is the cost of fuel. The barrel of oil is just going down right now and that could actually decrease the cost of transportation."
To date, there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Maritime provinces. However, that hasn’t stopped people from being concerned about everything from the stock market to their pension plans.
"If you look back at the last five outbreaks that we've had whether it's SARS, MERS, avian flu, the length and duration of the longest one was 144 days until it was over and the average is less than 60 and in every single case, the market 12 months later was up,” said Chris Rafuse, senior financial advisor with Assante Capital Management Ltd.
“In one case it was up 4.4 per cent, in other case with SARS it was up 32.2 per cent, 12 months later. So this is very disrupting looking on the television, what's happening daily in the day-to-day market but realistically, from a pension fund standpoint, they're looking 20, 30, 40 years out. These tend to create buying opportunities.”
According to Rafuse, these things tend to go through cycles.
“A lot of investors get worried because we have such a traumatic thing happening right now but the reality of the fact is that markets generally do go up,” said Rafuse. “The thing is when the markets get things wrong and then the market adjusts and shoots up high, you need to be invested in the market to catch that upside and catching those big, big days when it does happen, that’s when you kind of make all your money.”
Nova Scotia Community College marketing professor Ed McHugh says some businesses, like restaurants and movie theatres could take a hit because of coronavirus.
"For some businesses, it's been good news believe it or not,” said McHugh. “Hand sanitizers, food that can be canned and stored for a while. As we've seen, toilet tissue. You know, Netflix. Some businesses have actually done ok."
McHugh says because of the news cycle, coronavirus is top of mind for a lot of people, but there is no reason to panic.
"As a society, we've gone through many, many crisis in the past from H1N1 to SARS and various other ailments. This will be like every other ailment, we'll make our way through it as a society," he said.
While experts say it’s fine to have some extra supplies, there is no need to stockpile items.
"I would encourage people to stay calm and, just buy stock incrementally. It's absolutely appropriate to have stock at home over three, four days, whether there's a virus going around or not,” added Charlebois.