Shanghai’s Food Crisis Prompts Beijing Residents to Stock Up

Some Beijing residents have started stockpiling food in their homes in case the city imposes a lockdown, after seeing reports of food shortages and even street fights over food during a lockdown in Shanghai.

Liu Chang, a 29-year-old Beijing resident who lives with his girlfriend, has stocked enough food to last three months. He is worried about possible shortages as well as price gouging in the coming months.

“No matter which city it is, there will be concerns like this,” he said. “I have never experienced famine, but I have always felt that supplies that seem enough now may just be temporary.”

Shanghai started locking down parts of its city in March and moved into a citywide one early this month. The stringent controls on movement have also led to reports of food shortages, stoking protests and a flood of messages calling for help online. Many residents in that city, have struggled to arrange for food deliveries during the lockdown.

In Beijing, Mr. Liu has bought rice, grains, instant noodles, ketchup, frozen chicken and drinks. He even bought beans with plans to grow bean sprouts if his vegetable supply ran out. Mr. Liu was worried that the pandemic might disrupt the planting or harvesting of crops, further limiting food supplies.

Li Lilin, a 29-year-old real estate agent in Beijing, went to Sam’s Club last Saturday to buy enough food to last half a month.

“Things that happened in Shanghai made me panic. I cook at home often, but there was not much instant food stock left in my house,” she said. “I’m just terrified of starving to death.”

Ms. Li said that she was not a hoarder, and that she also believed that officials in neighborhood committees were more organized in Beijing than their counterparts in Shanghai. But supplies could run out quickly, she thought. Last Saturday, when she was intending to stock up on salt, she discovered that it was already sold out at her local store.

Walmart, which owns Sam’s Club, said in an email that the company was aware that some of its products were in high demand and said it was monitoring its inventory.

There were also concerns that the suspension of express delivery service in some areas, as well as road closures and restrictions on trucks across provinces and cities, would disrupt food supply networks. This was not a groundless speculation.

A customer service employee at a shop selling Nissin Foods’ instant noodles on Taobao, a Chinese shopping website, said that because of the pandemic, the shop’s warehouse in Shanghai had suspended the dispatch of goods.

Beijing issued a nationwide notice on Monday requiring all government agencies to make every effort to ensure the smooth transportation of freight and logistics “to effectively maintain the order of normal production and life of the people.”

In other news from around the globe:

  • Hong Kong said on Thursday that it would ease its social-distancing measures next week as its deadly coronavirus wave abates. Restaurants can stay open until 10 p.m., an extension from 6 p.m., and up to four people will be allowed to gather in public, an increase from two, starting on April 21, Sophia Chan, the secretary for food and health, said at a news conference. Gyms, museums, movie theaters, beauty parlors, gaming arcades and religious venues will also be allowed to open, she added, but bars will remain shut.

John Yoon contributed reporting, and Claire Fu contributed research.

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