Chinese officials pedal back from their original messages they issued to warn families to stock up on daily necessities such as vegetables and rice, in case of emergencies, after panic spread on social media.
- The warning raised concerns that it may have been triggered by increased tensions with Taiwan
- However, Chinese officials say it was part of the general government’s efforts to help residents prepare for emergencies.
- Some on social media said that panic shopping had already begun and that people were in a hurry to supply themselves with rice, cooking oil and salt
A warning from the Ministry of Commerce issued late Monday, local time, comes after the eruption of COVID-19 and heavy rain had raised concerns about the shortage of vegetables.
The announcement warned local authorities to buy vegetables that can be stored well in advance and also strengthen emergency delivery networks.
Shortly after the warning was announced, it raised concerns on Chinese social media that it may have been triggered by heightened tensions with Taiwan.
In response, Chinese officials issued statements that the announcements were part of the government’s regular efforts to help residents prepare for potential emergencies.
Zhu Xiaoliang, head of the ministry’s marketing and consumer promotion department, said the announcement was intended to ensure stable supplies and food prices for residents through various measures, including guiding companies into signing supply contracts, according to the Global Times.
“Judging from the current situation, the supply of daily necessities in various places is sufficient and should be fully guaranteed,” Mr Zhu said.
The deputy director of the Ministry of Circulation and Consumption under the ministry, Guan Lixin, said the announcement was “issued in the light of the frequent natural disasters” which he said caused soaring vegetable prices as well as sporadic COVID-19 cases.
“[The notice] was agreed in advance. The goal is to better ensure people’s daily necessities during this winter and next spring, “Guan said.
However, the announcement went viral on social platforms shortly after the post.
Some people said they hurried to fill up with rice, cooking oil and salt.
“As soon as this news came out, all the old people near me went crazy and bought in a panic in the supermarket,” wrote a user on the Chinese social media platform Weibo.
Local media have also recently published lists of recommended items for home storage, including biscuits and instant noodles, vitamins, radios and flashlights.
The public reaction forced state media to try to soothe fears and clarify the ministry’s statement.
A Communist Party-backed newspaper, The Economic Daily, told social media users not to have “too much overactive imagination” and that the purpose of the directive was to ensure citizens were not taken by surprise if there was a shutdown in their area.
The ministry’s statement called on local authorities to do a good job of securing supply and stable prices and providing early warnings of any supply problems.
Extreme weather effects
The government typically makes an extra effort to increase the supply of fresh vegetables and pork before China’s most important holiday, the lunar new year, which in 2022 falls in early February.
But this year, those efforts have become more urgent after extreme weather in early October destroyed crops in Shandong – the country’s largest vegetable growing area – and as an outbreak of COVID-19 cases stretching from the northwest to the northeast. of the country threatens to disrupt the food supply.
Last week, the prices of cucumbers, spinach and broccoli more than doubled from the beginning of October.
Although prices have fallen in recent days, economists expect a marked year-on-year rise in consumer price inflation for October, the first in five months.
The pandemic has brought an increased focus on food safety, where the government has drafted a food safety law and outlined new efforts to limit food waste.
ABC / Reuters