Chinese families have been encouraged to stockpile basic necessities, prompting panic buying, amid soaring vegetable prices linked to recent extreme weather conditions, fears of supply shortages and an epidemic. of Covid in progress.
A notice published Monday evening on the website of the Ministry of Commerce urged local authorities to stabilize prices and families “to stock a certain quantity of essential products to cope with daily life and emergencies”.
This sparked concerns and speculation, including that it was about growing tensions with Taiwan. The related hashtags have been viewed over 18 million times.
“As soon as this news got out, all the old people near me went panic-buying crazy at the supermarket,” one user wrote on Weibo.
State media called for calm, and Zhu Xiaoliang, a senior official in the Ministry of Commerce, told broadcaster CCTV that “the supply of basic necessities is sufficient everywhere,” but various explanations have been put forward for the problem. announcement.
Some said the commerce department often issues such warnings in the weeks leading up to national holidays, while the People’s Daily said the department issued its instructions earlier this year due to natural disasters, soaring vegetable prices and recent cases of Covid.
The Economic Daily, a state-backed newspaper, warned residents against having “too much too active imagination,” but also said the directive was linked to the outbreak and aimed to ensure that people were prepared in the event of a lockdown.
About 500 cases of the Delta variant have been recorded in at least 16 of China’s 31 provinces. Authorities have put in place localized lockdowns, halted travel and movement and launched mass tests. On Sunday, more than 30,000 people were barred from leaving Shanghai Disneyland until they were all tested, after a case was detected in a woman who could have visited.
Despite the assurances, some remained skeptical. A Weibo user commented that there had been no warning to stock up at the start of the 2020 pandemic.
“This is the first time that such a recall notice has been issued! ! I’m a little scared. “
“It’s definitely not a normal recall,” said another. “Reminding ourselves to stock will inevitably make market supply and demand unstable, price fluctuations and cause some people to panic… It is very likely that this is a peculiar situation. “
Extreme weather conditions last month destroyed crops in China’s largest vegetable growing region, Shandong, threatening this year’s efforts to increase supplies ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday early next year.
Last week, prices for cucumbers, spinach and broccoli had more than doubled since early October. Spinach was more expensive than some cuts of pork at 16.67 yuan ($ 2.60) per kg, according to a vegetable price index in Shouguang, a hub in Shandong.
Although prices have eased in recent days, economists expect a significant year-over-year increase in consumer price inflation for October, the first in five months.
The Commerce Ministry said local authorities should purchase vegetables that could be stored well in advance and also strengthen emergency delivery networks. Information on prices and supply and demand of commodities should be released in a timely manner to stabilize people’s expectations, he added.
China also plans to release vegetable reserves “at the appropriate time” to counter rising prices, according to a report on state television on Monday. It is not clear which vegetables China has in its reserves and how big they are.