China urges families to stockpile food and essentials amid fears of winter shortages

·2-min read
The Chinese government has told families to keep daily necessities in stock in case of emergencies (AFP via Getty Images)
The Chinese government has told families to keep daily necessities in stock in case of emergencies (AFP via Getty Images)

China has urged families to stockpile food and essentials for emergency use, triggering concerns over potential food shortages, even as supply chains have been disrupted due to extreme weather and Covid outbreaks.

The announcement came late on Monday from China’s commerce ministry. It urged authorities to keep supply chains smooth, maintain stable prices and give early warnings in case of any potential shortages.

The ministry also said authorities must publicise information on where and how they could get supplies in areas that are under lockdown.

It did not mention any reasons – including food shortages or potential lockdowns in light of recent Covid outbreaks in the country – for the announcement, sparking concerns and triggering a barrage of online speculation.

Some on the country’s social media website Weibo likened the announcement to heightened tensions with Taiwan, while others pointed to potential lockdowns.

“You didn’t tell us to stock up when the pandemic broke out in 2020. This is the first time that such a reminder has been issued. A little scared… countries don’t publish scary news like this unless they have to,” one user said.

“As soon as this news came out, all the old people near me went crazy panic buying in the supermarket,” wrote another user.

The concerns forced state media to issue a clarification on Tuesday in an attempt to soothe fears.

The Economic Daily, a Communist Party-backed newspaper, seemingly shot down concerns by asking citizens to not have “too much of an overactive imagination”.

The daily said the announcement was to make sure citizens were not caught off guard if there was a lockdown in their area.

Food prices traditionally increase in China once winter approaches the country. The government typically makes extra efforts to ensure smooth supplies of vegetables and pork during the Lunar New Year, China’s most important holiday on 1 February.

This year, however, the government has doubled down on its response after the country faced some extreme weather situations that exacerbated food supply chains, already exacerbated by Covid outbreaks.

In one instance in early October, continuous downpours and subsequent flooding damaged crops in Shandong, China’s largest vegetable farming region located in the eastern part of the country.

Vegetable prices have soared in recent months in the country as well, with wholesale prices of 28 varieties of vegetables jumping up by 16 per cent from the previous month in October, state media said on Monday.

The country has also been taking stringent measures to control Covid outbreaks so that it reaches its target of zero infections before the Winter Olympics that will be held in the country in February.

Authorities in Shanghai shut Disneyland for at least two days after a single Covid case was discovered in a visitor. In response, the amusement park was sealed and mass testing was conducted on the visitors.

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