People resort to panic buying in wake of virus

Published: March 17, 2020
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Bottles of hand sanitizers are seen in a shelf for sale, amid coronavirus outbreak, at a medical store in Karachi. REUTERS

Bottles of hand sanitizers are seen in a shelf for sale, amid coronavirus outbreak, at a medical store in Karachi. REUTERS

LAHORE / KARACHI / ISLAMABAD: As the number of coronavirus cases rises in the country and fear grows that the government might impose a lockdown, the lives of citizens also underwent a rapid change with several of them flooding markets to buy daily-use items.

Lahore – the second largest city in the country – where hustle bustle is common and residents resort to outing and dinning especially on the weekends, has been witnessing a changing trend after the provincial government announced adopting pre-emptive measures in the wake of COVID-19.

Traffic on the main arteries is quite thin while superstores and retail outlets are sprawling with people.

The government has closed all educational institutions and marriage halls across the province and banned public gatherings of more than five people in the wake of the virus.

The retail experts believe that continuous supply of essential food and other items and a competitive atmosphere among the retail chains has kept the customer panic level under control.

“Yes, you can say we are buying more than what we need but under the current circumstances, this measure is the need of the hour,” said Taskeen Ara, a housewife while shopping in one of country’s biggest retail centres.

Taskeen is not the only lady who is worried about the likely shortage of food items in the coming days but there are many others who are of the view that the country might face a food crisis since its borders are closed and the government is issuing advisories to the public.

“We are living in an age of mafias. Look at the prices of surgical masks, sanitisers and other things. How can we say that such shortages will not have an impact on the grocery, bakery, vegetable and baby food items in the coming days,” said shopkeeper Asim Qadri.

“We have just come out of the wheat and sugar crises. What if this epidemic [coronavirus] continues to grow and the mafias are given a chance to create artificial shortage of food, vegetable and grocery items,” he asked.

Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, while talking to The Express Tribune, maintained that the government should not create panic and take measures and ensure non-stop supply of essential food items.

“COVID-19 is a global epidemic which has tumbled global markets. Our country will also face some music in this regard,” he said.

Sheikh was of the view that there would be some effect on the supply of essential food items as there were no imports due to closure of borders.

Many retailers believed that this was the start of panic buying and if the situation persisted, it might become a crisis which would increase the burden on global retailers.

Carrefour Pakistan Country Manager Jean-Marc Dumont observed that due to the concerns of the customers, an increase in the demand of hygiene products has been witnessed.

“We are actively working with our suppliers to maintain the availability and price of these [hygiene] items and we request our customers to remain calm during these testing times,” he said while talking to The Express Tribune.

“Our majority of essential food and non-food items are sourced through local supplies, hence, we have not faced any supply issues,” he added.

Meanwhile, people in the federal capital and Rawalpindi have also resorted to buying in bulk.

Anjuman-e-Tajran President Ajmal Baloch asked that the government to review the supply and demand of edible items on a daily basis and ensure availability of essential commodities.

He urged the authorities to take necessary steps against the hoarders.

Riaz Khan, manager, at a local superstore in Karachi said that the sales of kitchen items had increased in the past few days.

“Normally, we witness this kind of rush in the last days of Ramazan. Hand sanitisers and surgical masks have run out of inventory,” he said.

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