| 27 May 2024, Monday |

Chinese stock up on food as temperatures fall and COVID-19 spreads

On Wednesday, Beijing shoppers stocked up on cabbage, rice, and flour for the winter after the government urged people to stockpile basic goods in case of emergencies, though it assured them that there were enough supplies after some panic buying.

Following a recent spike in vegetable prices and a growing outbreak of COVID-19, China’s Ministry of Commerce issued a seasonal notice on Monday encouraging authorities to do a good job of ensuring food supplies and stable prices ahead of winter.

However, the ministry’s advice to households to stock up on daily necessities in case of an emergency caused significant confusion, sending some rushing to supermarkets to buy extra supplies of cooking oil and rice.

“It’s going to be a cold winter, and we want to make sure we have enough to eat,” said one woman loading rice onto a bicycle outside a central Beijing supermarket.

A long line formed at the supermarket’s cabbage stall as customers purchased supplies of the vegetable, which is traditionally stored at home and consumed during the winter months.

The state media has attempted to reassure the public that basic goods are in plentiful supply.

China’s state broadcaster CCTV reported on Tuesday that the ministry’s advice had been “over-interpreted.”

“At the moment, the supply of daily necessities in various places is sufficient, and the supply should be fully guaranteed,” Zhu Xiaoliang, director of the Ministry of Consumption Promotion, was quoted as saying.

Winter vegetables have been released from stockpiles in some cities, including Tianjin in the north and Wuhan in the south, for sale at lower prices in supermarkets.

However, some panic buying appeared to continue on Wednesday, with several people complaining online about empty supermarket shelves, which they attributed to a growing COVID-19 outbreak.

China reported its highest number of new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases in almost three months on Wednesday, including nine new infections in Beijing, the biggest one-day increase in the capital this year. read more

“Even bulk rice has been stripped off [shelves],” said a resident in the southern city of Nanjing, writing on China’s microblog Weibo.

  • Reuters