By NATARIO McKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
and NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Bahamian building supplies merchants yesterday warned of potential price hikes and shortages of key construction materials in Hurricane Irma’s aftermath should Florida suffer a major hit.
Adam Darville, Pinder Enterprises’ general manager, told Tribune Business: “Things have been busy since Saturday. People came for supplies earlier than normal. We are down to the remnants right now.”
He added: “The problem is that south and northern Florida are big hubs for building supplies. If they get hit, we are definitely going to see some fall-out from that.
“One thing that is concerning me is the plywood situation. Plywood has been in very short supply all year. Now with this storm it will be very interesting to see if we can even get plywood after this storm. I’m sold out. I have tons of shingles but no plywood.
“It’s been a rough year for plywood. With such short supply I’m assuming prices will go up. If this hurricane hits the US we might be in trouble. We just have to hope we don’t get too badly damaged. There was less plywood than normal on the island for this hurricane.”
Mr Darville’s comments indicate how the damage inflicted by Hurricane Harvey in Texas, and likely Irma in Florida, could negatively impact reconstruction efforts in the Bahamas by increasing prices - and reducing supply availability - of key construction materials.
With tremendous demand in the US, given the hurricane damage there, the Bahamas could experience supply chain bottlenecks for its own recovery efforts and be forced to source construction materials from further afield.
Charles Albury, of JBR Building Supplies, backed Mr Darville’s analysis. He told Tribune Business: “It really depends on whether the [Florida] ports get damaged badly. We have supplies in place. But it all depends on what happens with the ports, the Port of Miami and the Port of Palm Beach.
“Supplies may have to come from further up state. The storm may run up the whole state. We do have replenishment coming out, but it just depends on whether the ports can be used.”
He added: “Prices will likely spike because demand is going to increase tremendously. We’re not really concerned about a shortage of supply; it’s just being able to get them here that could be the issue.”
Chamber of Commerce executives also expressed concern. Edison Sumner, the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation’s (BCCEC) chief executive, said: “Any disruption to the logistics in Florida will inevitably have an impact on the logistics chain in the Bahamas.
“Arawak Port Development Company (the Nassau Container Port operator) has robust mechanisms in place to meet this challenge, and we believe they’ve got that under control.
“But as far as the supply chain is concerned, if Florida goes down it will have a direct and adverse impact on our businesses as most of our products come from Florida or come through Florida.”
Irma was last night forecast to move directly up the middle of Florida, meaning that few businesses will be spared, and threatening to inflict major disruption on the transportation infrastructure and businesses that are critical to supplying the Bahamas.
Mr Sumner said the Bahamian private sector was “hoping and praying” that Florida suppliers and logistics providers will suffer only “minor damage, so that the business of trade and commerce is quickly established once Irma passes.
“Trade and commerce drives the economy,” he added, “and it’s important to get back into that as quickly as possible to keep things moving, and so that you don’t find yourself in a state where you can’t get the economy going.”
Mick Holding, the Grand Bahama Chamber of Commerce’s president, said he was unable to recall a major hurricane that threatened to inflict damage on the entire state of Florida and its supply chain components.
Both Mr Holding and Mr Sumner said the Bahamas appeared well-stocked for fuel and food, but the former agreed that problems might occur if the Bahamas needed to import significant quantities of construction materials post-Irma.
“The priorities in Florida will be Florida,” Mr Holding said.
Mark Roberts, president of FYP, Builders Mall described pre-hurricane sales as being ‘above average’. “I’d say that the pre-hurricane business has been a little bit above average. There is potential for shortage of materials after the storm but we won’t know until it happens.”