China urges citizens to stockpile ‘daily necessities’, sparking fears of food shortages
China sparks fear about Taiwan tensions, food shortages after families urged to stockpile ‘daily necessities’
- China’s Ministry of Commerce urged local authorities to stabilise food supply and families to stockpile daily necessities
- The notice ahead of winter and amid sporadic Covid-19 outbreaks sparked panic, with some linking it to war with Taiwan
A notice from the Chinese government that urged households to stock up on daily necessities ahead of winter in case of emergencies and food shortages has sparked widespread concern online.
The Ministry of Commerce told local authorities to stabilise food supply and prices, including for vegetables, meat and cooking oil in preparation for the coming cold months, according to the statement released on Monday evening.
“Families are encouraged to store a certain amount of daily necessities to meet the needs of daily life and emergencies,” the ministry said.
The notice sparked heated discussion online, with the hashtag “Ministry of Commerce encourages households to stockpile daily necessities as needed” garnering more than 40 million views on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social platform, and nearly 5,000 comments as of Tuesday evening Beijing time.
On Tuesday, the ministry’s director of consumption promotion, Zhu Xiaoliang, assured people there was no imminent threat to food supply.
“Looking at the current situation, all regions have an adequate supply of daily necessities, the supply should be completely guaranteed,” Zhu said in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV.
The Economic Daily, a state newspaper, also tried to calm online speculation by saying the intention of the notice was to make sure people were prepared for lockdowns or quarantine due to new coronavirus outbreaks.
“In the long run, it is also advocating for residents to improve their awareness of emergency management, increase the household reserve of necessary commodities to supplement the national emergency system,” it said in a piece published on its WeChat channel.
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Official calls for emergency storage are not common in China. The government last issued a similar message in January 2010, telling people to prepare for wild weather.
In the last week of October, the average price of 19 vegetable varieties tracked by the Ministry of Agriculture in 286 wholesale markets across the country rose 49.1 per cent from a year ago, and was up 13.5 per cent from the previous week.
Last month, the average wholesale price of 28 different vegetables rose 16 per cent from September, bucking the usual seasonal decline in autumn, the ministry added.
The National Bureau of Statistics will publish October’s consumer price index next Wednesday. Analysts from Guosheng Securities said in a note on Sunday the reading is likely to rise 1.5 per cent from a year earlier and the gain could be above 2 per cent in November.
Some experts said the call to stock up on necessities could also be related to government efforts to invigorate the economy.
“The government’s encouragement to reserve materials may also be related to boosting consumption, stimulating domestic demand and promoting economic growth,” Liu Zhengshan, an independent economist in China, wrote on Weibo on Tuesday.
Guang Qingyou, an economist and president of Rushi Advanced Institute of Finance, said the appeal was likely tied to the pandemic, which was still affecting supply chains and potentially the flow of goods.
“Secondly, a hike in upstream energy costs has led to rising vegetable prices, affecting people’s livelihood,” he said on Weibo.
“As for the war or upheaval that many people have imagined, there is no need to think so.”