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In Ivan's Wake, Caribbean Supermarkets Face Immediate and Long-term Hurdles

NEW YORK - Supermarkets in the Cayman Islands, Granada, Jamaica, and other Caribbean islands hit by Hurricane Ivan now face long-term economic challenges on top of immediate damage to their stores, since many of them depend on local economies and tourism for business.

Hurricane Ivan, dubbed "Ivan the Terrible" because of its ferocious winds and relentless force, devastated a number of supermarkets throughout the Caribbean, several of which are members of the IGA network, according Paulo Goelzer, president of the IGA Institute.

"IGA has around 100 stores in Central American and the Caribbean. We've been in contact with many of them, and they suffered various degrees of damage," Goelzer told Progressive Grocer. While stores in Barbados and St. Lucia were OK, stores located in areas where the storm struck with more force were damaged and lost merchandise, he said.

Two of the major supermarkets on Grand Cayman Island suffered severe damage and one, Kirk Supermarket, has been completely demolished, according to published reports. An eyewitness report said, "It looks as though a bomb went off inside it."

Many of these stores will depend on their local governments and other resources for help. In addition, they'll try to collect from insurance companies, said Goelzer.

Yet all of the businesses will probably lose out in the long term. One Jamaican operator who was fortunate enough to have his store left intact told Goelzer, "We may have escaped damage to our store, but we won't escape the long-term damage to our economy."

An even bigger immediate concern for many grocers is the condition of their employees' and customers' homes, noted Goelzer.

On Grand Cayman, the capital of a territory of 45,000, thousands of people were homeless according to the Associated Press, because of significant damage to between one-quarter and one-half of the homes there.

-- Jenny McTaggart
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