Chandigarh, March 20 (IANS) With most of the wholesale markets and retail shops witnessing an unprecedented rush in the region, grocery traders on Friday blamed panic buying for creating an artificial shortage of goods, especially non-perishable foods, including canned goods, dry goods and dehydrated foods.
A huge rush of consumers was seen in the Union Territory of Chandigarh and its neighbouring Punjab and Haryana in the wake of the lockdown of towns and cities owing to coronavirus scare.
A reality check by IANS in Chandigarh and prominent cities of Punjab and Haryana revealed that hand sanitisers and face masks have gone off the shelves in most of the medical stores long back and now there is a sharp surge in sales of grocery items, daily necessities and personal hygiene products.
But the current trends indicate panic buying may force supermarkets and wholesale stores to ration food and personal necessity items in the days to come, admit trade insiders.
“For the first time in my life, I have seen such panic buying in this flour mill,” remarked octogenarian Niranjan Singh, who came to buy a 10-kg bag of wheat flour at the Ram Flour Mills in Sector 30, one of the oldest and prominent in Chandigarh.
He said the normal waiting period to buy a bag of flour is 10-15 minutes, but now it could go up to two hours.
An employee of the flour mill said a customer, who was earlier buying a bag of 10 or 20 kg of “atta” for a month, is now buying 50 to 60 kg in one purchase.
“This is an artificial shortage. The consumer traffic to the stores will be down once people will stock the maximum quantities,” he said, adding the average shelf life of wheat flour one and a half month, but it seems people are storing ‘attaa’ for five-six months.
The situation is similar in Chandigarh’s Sector 26 grain market and other shopping areas.
As hand sanitisers manufactured by most of the prominent manufacturers went out of stock a long ago, Dettol and Savlon disinfectant products have surged as the spread of the coronavirus outbreak continues.
In Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana the demand for Dettol-branded hand gels was outstripping supply, but so far there is no shortage, a Chandigarh-based prominent trader said.
With Punjab and Haryana authorities ordering closing down farmers’ markets and Apni Mandis, and rumours over shutdown of towns and cities due to COVID-19, people are resorting to panic buying.
Major grocery chain outlets in Punjab like DMart and Big Bazaar are also witnessing a heavy rush. Petrol pumps have been seeing long queues.
“This long queue reminds me of the days during the militancy in early 1980’s when a petrol pump opened just for a few hours during the curfew,” said Nirmal Singh in Punjab’s Ludhiana city.
However, no petrol station in Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana was facing short supply of petroleum products.
Ludhiana Deputy Commissioner Pradeep Agrawal said people might have stocked basic commodities to avoid going to the market time and again.
He said the administration is appealing to the public not to panic and stock commodities for a few days, not for months.
“If they start hoarding things for months, there will be an artificial shortage and prices will start sky-rocketing,” he said.
Chandigarh Adviser Manoj Parida told IANS anybody receiving the fake messages on shutdowns should inform the authorities. “After verifying the contents of the message, we are immediately issuing a statement on its genuineness or inaccuracy.”
He said there is no need for panic buying as the situation is under control.
Refuting social media rumours, claiming that the administration is going to shut Apni Mandis being organised in sectors and also the wholesale vegetable and fruit market in Sector 26, Parida said they would remain open.
“We are only discouraging retail purchases in the Sector 26 wholesale market,” he added.