Panic-buying has erupted across China amid fears of a food shortage due to the Wuhan coronavirus, reports stated on Thursday, indicating that Chinese citizens are ignoring the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) statements urging people not to stockpile food.
On Thursday, a resident of Ezhou, a city in Hubei Province, told the anti-communist publication Epoch Times that locals have been rushing to hoard rice for at least the past two days. According to the newspaper, social media reports indicate that residents are also stockpiling food in other cities in Hubei, such as Huanggang, Yichang, and Wuhan — the epicenter of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak in China.
The panic-buying has defied the wishes of the CCP, which has tried to assure people that the food supply remains abundant. On March 31, Ezhou’s market regulation bureau released a statement in which it said that people should not panic-buy and that the city has plenty of rice and oil to supply all its residents for a year. The same day, Huanggang released a similar statement to its residents, dismissing information suggesting the city faced a food shortage as a rumor.
Despite the CCP’s attempts to pacify the public, citizens reportedly remain convinced of a food shortage in China. Reports of a leaked government document confirming the food shortage have circulated online as well, further fueling the panic-buying.
On March 28, a document labeled “classified secret” was allegedly issued by the Linxia Hui regional government, according to the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia (RFA). RFA reported that it stated that municipal and county governments must “pull out all the stops” to secure supplies of beef, lamb, cooking oil, salt, and other basic necessities. The document also stated that regional authorities must “guide the public to consciously stock up,” and make sure that “each household has enough food for 3 to 6 months, in case of unexpected circumstances.”
Accounts of food stockpiling have emerged from outside of Hubei province as well, with residents reportedly clearing store shelves of rice, oil, and noodles in Shandong and Gansu provinces.
The panic-buying was sparked by posts on Chinese social media, the Epoch Times reported, where people claimed some countries would soon ban food exports due to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. This has caused a significant increase in the prices of rice and cooking oil in China.
China’s domestic production of grain cannot keep up with demand, forcing it to import much of its grain from outside countries, like the United States. In the first ten months of 2019, China imported 1.91 million tons of rice, according to data from China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs.
At the end of March, Vietnam — the world’s third-largest exporter of rice — said it planned to stockpile the grain and suspend new export contracts. China is one of the largest buyers of Vietnam’s rice.
On March 24, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations said that disruption to food supply chains could occur during April and May due to the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus. A week later, on March 31, the FAO, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued a joint statement acknowledging the food shortages to come. “Uncertainty about food availability can spark a wave of export restrictions, creating a shortage on the global market.”
In March, hundreds of residents of Yingcheng, Hubei, organized a protest against the arrest of a man selling fresh, affordable food as an alternative to the CCP’s overpriced foodstuffs. The Communist Party had been doling out rations door-to-door to residents locked in their homes due to strict quarantine.
The Chinese coronavirus, originating in Wuhan, China, late last year, was designated a pandemic on March 11 by WHO. At press time Friday, the Chinese coronavirus was responsible for 1,094,068 infections 58,773 deaths worldwide.