Frozen grated ube, McCormick Ube Flavor Extract, purple yam powder which are the key ingredients for ube flavoured baked goodies have been out of stock in parts of Australia for several weeks.
In Melbourne, Filipino grocery stores including Kabsat Variety Store in Werribee and Sari Sari Asian Groceries in Narre Warren have struggled to maintain stock of the Philippine-made ube products.
Distributors such as Merchants Manila and Manila Grocers supplies these products to Filipino shops around Victoria. Elizer Santos of Merchants Manila informed The Philippine Times that he has been receiving daily requests from his customers. He also shared that the shortage is also being felt in New South Wales.
According to Sally of Manila Grocers, ube products last arrived before the initial coronavirus lockdown in late March.
The Impact of the Coronavirus
Coronavirus restrictions has been a contributor to the lack of supply in Australia. Leading importer Michael Gillis of Castleglen in Perth provides an explanation. “Many companies are not able to get labels printed which makes it impossible to process (for export). McCormick Philippines, for example, has purchased excess stock from Good Shepherd in Baguio but is having issues in receiving labels from printers,” he said.
Manufacturers in the Philippines are also reluctant to stockpile inventory due to community quarantine in affect.
Castleglen was able to obtain ube from the Philippines in mid-June, which was sold out ‘within two days’.
Ube Cheese Pandesal Craze
Stay-at-home orders by the Australian government saw a huge interest in cooking and baking across the Fil-Aus community.
Filipinos took the opportunity to showcase their popular baked goods on social media, especially Ube Cheese Pandesal. When the Ube Cheese Pandesal craze became viral, the demand for its ingredients surged and were immediately sold out in the Filipino shops.
The shortage of food colouring has led to Filipinos like Maricel Lucero Miraflores mixing blue and red food colouring in desperation to create a purple coloured Ube Cheese Pandesal. She felt that her efforts to create this special treat failed.
“It turned purple, but not as dark as I wanted to achieve…it came out really pale.”
The Thai Alternative
Filipino home bakers are resorting to ube products which are made in Thailand, which available at various Thai and Asian Grocery stores.
However, Ivy of Kabsat Variety Store states that customers have noticed a difference in the quality of ube from Thailand, mentioning a preference for the ‘tastier’ Philippine-made ube.
When will Ube products be available?
Manila Grocers hopes that ube flavouring such as ‘McCormick Ube Flavor Extract’ will arrive around September when imports are expected to stabilise, while Castleglen predicts the availability of ube products should stabilise by November.
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