Chinese stock up on food as temperatures drop and Covid spreads


BEIJING – Buyers in Beijing stocked up on cabbage, rice and flour for the winter on Wednesday, after the government urged people to keep stocks of basic items in case of an emergency, although it Assured them that there were enough supplies after a few panic purchases.

China’s Ministry of Commerce on Monday issued a seasonal notice urging authorities to do a good job of ensuring stable food supplies and prices before winter, following a recent vegetable price spike and an outbreak. growing number of Covid-19.

But the ministry’s advice for households to also stock up on basic necessities in emergencies has sparked much confusion, sending some rushing to supermarkets to purchase additional supplies of cooking oil and rice.

China’s instructions also pushed up domestic edible oil futures as well as Malaysian palm oil.

“The winter is going to be cold, we want to make sure we have enough to eat,” said a woman loading rice onto a bicycle outside a supermarket in central Beijing.

A long line formed at the supermarket cabbage stall as people bought vegetables that are traditionally stored at home and eaten during the winter months.

But many locals said there was no need to buy more food than normal.

“There is no need. Where can I store vegetables at home? I have enough for my daily needs,” said a Beijing retiree named Shi leaving another Beijing supermarket.

“Even the loose rice has been torn off [shelves]. ”

Others said they did not expect shortages, especially in the capital.

Government advice for residents to buy supplies before winter is issued every year, said Ma Wenfeng, an analyst at AG Holdings Agricultural Consulting.

“This is necessary because there is often heavy snowfall in the winter … and it looks like there will be some uncertainty about the weather this year. So I think it is quite a deal. normal, ”he said.

The National Meteorological Center of China predicts a drop in temperatures over the weekend in the northwest, southwest and most central and eastern regions.

State media have sought to reassure the public about the abundance of commodities.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV reported on Tuesday that there had been an “over-interpretation” of the ministry’s advice.

“Currently, the supply of basic necessities in various places is sufficient, and the supply must be fully guaranteed,” said Zhu Xiaoliang, director of the ministry’s consumer promotion department.

Some cities, including Tianjin in the north and Wuhan in the south, have stocked winter vegetables for sale at lower prices in supermarkets.

But some panic shopping appeared to continue on Wednesday, with several people online complaining of empty supermarket shelves, largely attributed to a growing outbreak of Covid-19.

China on Wednesday reported its highest number of new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases in nearly three months, including nine new infections in Beijing, the largest one-day increase in the capital this year.

“Even the loose rice was torn off [shelves]Said a resident of the southern city of Nanjing, writing on the Chinese microblog Weibo.

“There is uncertainty about the occurrence of Covid-19 epidemics. Once an epidemic occurs, people’s livelihoods will be affected. That’s why people are stocking up on winter supplies to avoid the impact of Covid-19, ”Ma said at AG Holdings.

Chinese authorities typically respond to Covid-19 cases by locking down entire communities where they occur, restricting movement to and out of affected areas.

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