It’s too early to tell exactly what effect the damage caused by Cyclone Gabrielle will have on the food and produce supply, FGC Chief Executive Raewyn Bleakley says.

She says: “There’s no way this utter devastation won’t have an effect, but I think it’s too early to be able to quantify that really precisely.”

The first concern of suppliers in the affected areas was the whereabouts and safety of their people.

“Some of our members did have real concerns and weren’t able to locate people, and that’s an horrific situation to be in as an employer. Those people obviously had personal circumstances where their whanau, their own houses may have been impacted, so employers need to be mindful of that as they’re also doing their own site and plant assessments now to try and understand the impact on their businesses. At the same time, they’re trying to continue what business activities they can.

“A really big focus for members is their procurement.

“If they can’t get the items they need to manufacture their goods from their usual suppliers, or if they’re growers and have that vertical integration where they’ve been growing their own produce and turning it into items we see on supermarket shelves, they need to then look to where else they can get items to substitute.

“There are some issues around ingredient substitution they may be clearing with the Ministry for Primary Industries about food safety concerns and about labelling concerns. And I have to say the Ministry for Primary Industries has been fantastic. We’ve had daily stand-ups with them about issues and they’ve been resolving those as quickly as they can, so that’s a really responsive agency to be working with.

“We’ve also got product line issues, and members are working out whether they can reduce the range of products they make, concentrate on a few they can make in volume, or whether they have to make new products altogether that consumers need in a different way. And that’s where you’ll start to see different products on supermarket shelves.”

On possible shortages of products such as canned fruit, she says it depends on how much stock is on hand and whether raw ingredients could be substituted from other areas.

“And there may be different products available, in terms of frozen, that can be used to manufacture other items.

“What we do know about people in business … that once they get through the immediacy of an issue, they start of think about what they can do to keep going. This is a dynamic situation so they will adapt – they will find ways through it. And I think what we need to be prepared for as consumers is we may not see things in exactly the same way we are used to on supermarket shelves but there will still be products available.”