Under curfew, stores race to restock shelves

Shopkeepers say they have just six hours to procure stocks


​ Our Correspondent March 31, 2020
People buy essential goods from a general store in Rawalpindi. PHOTO: ONLINE

ISLAMABAD: Following the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, the district administration in the federal capital had imposed a curfew-like lockdown. This means that those businessmen who are allowed to open their stores have only limited time to scramble to procure goods and stock their shelves while managing public demand.

Arif Abbasi, a retailer who runs a general store in the Abpara market of the federal capital, said that they had been ordered open their shops at around 10am and to shut it down by 4pm daily as per the limits of the curfew defined by the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration.

With his store being frequented by the few locals left in town, he said that daily, it is a rush to balance restocking and tending to demand.

Abbasi explained that when the curfew lifts at 10am, they first have to rush to the wholesale markets to procure goods to sell that day.

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“Going to the market under such circumstances is a herculean task,” he said. Once there, he said that they have to navigate the minefield between those practising social distancing responsibly while others who did not.

Having secured the goods, he said that not more than two people are allowed to sit in the goods bearing trucks. Hence, they must take their own vehicles to the markets to be able to go and come back.

Back at his store, he said that they had to quickly unload the trucks and start stocking shelves apart from tending to the customers who have queued outside.

Abbasi, however, noted that the demand for products has fallen drastically over the past few days with many residents having already stocked piled supplies.

In the fruit and vegetable markets of the twin cities, there is a different challenge. Owing to the lockdown of businesses and schools, many of the migrant workers in the federal capital have opted to return to their hometowns or villages while the inter-district transport was active and the highways were open.

This means that the overall demand for goods in the federal capital has fallen drastically.

Owing to falling demand and oversupply, fruit and vegetable vendors are more often than not left with a surplus of product at the end of the day.

The cold store at the vegetable market has insufficient capacity to keep produce from most vendors.

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Bilal, a small trader at the vegetable market, said that the cold storage facility in the market has been filled to the brim with vegetables and fruits in less than a week of the lockdown.

Owing to the excessive supply and declining demand, he said that prices have plummeted.

“The labourers and small vendors are suffering during this difficult situation,” he said while expressing the hope that things will normalise soon.

Bilal further complained that the government was only spraying disinfectant chemicals in the upscale areas, suggesting that the ministers should work on the ground rather than just give statements. 

Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2020.

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