People panicked and rushed to the nearest stores to snap up food after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s lockdown announcement. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi African News Agency (ANA)
People panicked and rushed to the nearest stores to snap up food after President Cyril Ramaphosa’s lockdown announcement. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi African News Agency (ANA)

'Panic buying may disrupt SA's food supply system'

By Khaya Koko Time of article published Mar 25, 2020

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Dire warnings of “disruptions” to the country’s food supply system because of panic buying were reiterated as consumers continued to flood stores ahead of the imminent national lockdown starting on Thursday.

Government and food retailers stressed on Tuesday that the country had sufficient supply of essential food and home products for the 21-day national lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday.

The lockdown, which would limit the movement of citizens across the country, was announced as part of the government's efforts to stem the rapid spread of coronavirus, which had infected over 700 people on Wednesday up from 402 on Monday.

Agitated consumers again rushed to supermarkets to stock up ahead of midnight on Thursday, the official start of the lockdown.

The Star visited several stores in Joburg and Ekurhuleni on Tuesday and spoke to shoppers outside Makro outlets, which had snaking queues of consumers waiting to enter the shops.

Staple foods and home products filled dozens of trolleys with customers saying they wanted to buy essential goods before the pay-day rush began today, and continued through the week.

Videos also surfaced on social media of overcrowded Joburg Pick n Pay stores in another rush to buy supplies.

However, Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza warned consumers that “panic buying” would disrupt the food supply system, asserting that South Africa was self-sufficient, and the country was still to harvest its staple white and yellow maize. 

“Citrus harvest also promises to be good. Food price monitoring will also be made on critical food basket commodities, and reports will be given to the nation on a regular basis,” Didiza said.

She added that the government would be availing a R1.2billion funding package to ensure sustainable food production post the coronavirus pandemic, including the production of vegetables and other proteins required.

“I appeal to the public, as I have already indicated, that we are self-sufficient at the moment and therefore there is no need to embark on panic buying.

“Panic buying will only cause disruption and inconvenience in the food system,” Didiza cautioned.

Bedelia Swartz, speaking on behalf of Makro in Crown Mines, where there were long queues just to enter the store, said the branch had sufficient stock to service consumers, and there was no need to panic buy.

“We should be able to see this through. We have enough stock.

“We are controlling the lines with senior managers stationed at the front door to ensure there isn’t a rush,” Swartz said.

Reacting to packed Pick n Pay stores, David North, the company’s group executive for strategy and corporate affairs, said it supported the lockdown measures, which were announced by Ramaphosa on Monday night, and would maintain food and grocery supplies.

North added that the company was “well-stocked” and that its stores would be kept hygienic.

“Our staff are on the front line in continuing to work and serve customers during this crisis.

"They will be critical in ensuring our stores stay open and that people can buy their groceries.

“We are giving them every support, and asking the public to do the same,” North added.

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