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Saturday, March 28, 2020

do not overstock - leave food items for everyone ! - life is all about sharing

When there is National crisis, the first victim is truth – never hear rumours, never spread them – in fact never post anything without checking its veracity and usefulness.  I have become a great fan of Dr C Vijayabaskar, Health Minister of Tamilnadu.  Just follow him on twitter – such factual updates – he is visiting Hospitals, is found with health-workers and is virtually everywhere – very positive man, energetic and extremely effective.  Appreciate your efforts Sir !

For those at home and those who are unable to move – first concern other than the spread of virus is food.  For us, the staple food is rice.  It is imperative that people do not hoard or stockpile food material thereby making lives of others miserable.  See it as a short-term crisis, this shall pass over in a few days is the hope.  Here is some news on rice.

Vietnam’s rice traders have halted overseas shipments after the customs department ordered a temporary suspension of exports on Tuesday to ensure food security during the coronavirus pandemic. The country is the world’s third-largest exporter, behind India and Thailand.

Back in Tamilnadu the Govt headed by Chief Minister Edapaddi K Palaniswami is taking lot of measures.  The Govt is providing financial assistance of Rs.1,000 to all ration card holders.  The Govt is also providing free rice, cooking oil, sugar and other essential commodities.  The communique said that these essential items will be issued on a token basis to avoid the long queue.  Those who could not get the ration items in March can get them in April, the CM added. Severe restrictive measures are in place across the State - all the district borders have been sealed. Only vehicles carrying essential commodities are being allowed.

In Hongkong, two people were  arrested for allegedly stealing rice from a supermarket amid fears of a food shortage in Hong Kong due to the coronavirus pandemic  and the government’s social-distancing measures for restaurants. The men, from Nepal and Bangladesh, were stopped by officers outside Aeon supermarket on Tak Hong Street, Hung Hom.  Six packs of rice, weighing 12kg in total, were found on them. Officers believed they had been stolen from the supermarket. The cases came to light as many Hongkongers thronged supermarkets to stock up on rice, amid worries that Vietnamese authorities might ban rice exports to ensure domestic food security.

In Vietnam,  Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc  ordered the suspension of new rice export contracts through at least March 28. The country is the world’s third-largest exporter, behind India and Thailand. The department of state reserves will also stockpile 80,000 tons of paddy rice this year. In 2019, the department put in storage 200,000 tons of rice and 80,000 tons of paddy rice for the entire year, he added.  Vietnam said on Friday it planned to stockpile rice and suspend new rice export contracts by the end of the month to ensure it could feed its own population through the public health crisis. Thailand’s declaration of a nationwide state of emergency on Tuesday to fight the pandemic also added to fears over rice supply.

The move comes amid worldwide food security concerns as the virus threat spreads, with some governments contemplating restricting the flow of staple food out of their countries. In Russia, the vegetable oils union has called for a restriction on sunflower seed exports, and Kazakhstan has suspended exports of goods such as buckwheat, sugar, and sunflower oil until the middle of next month. Reuters reported that Vietnam’s export ban would have a significant short-term effect on global rice supply. “If Vietnam maintains the export ban, we will suddenly have about 10-15 per cent less available supply in the world market in the near term,” one European rice trader was quoted as saying. “Africa especially could face disruption from this.”

Concerns have been compounded by India, the top global rice exporter, entering a three-week lockdown  that brought several logistics channels to a halt, disrupting food supply chains. Some critics stated that export ban  would damage Vietnam’s credibility as a reliable supplier of rice in International market, an effect that could outlast the outbreak, undermining Vietnam’s ability to secure international sales well into the year, if not longer.

In all these, what is required is not to resort to panic buying and having stockpile of more than what is necessary.  Data from the US Department of Agriculture shows that combined global production of rice and wheat is expected be 1.26 billion tonnes this year, which would surpass the total combined consumption of those crops. But these projections assume normal crop flows, and prices for rice are already rising due to expectations of a further squeeze on exports.

Let it be a simple logistics issue and nothing farther as we sit at home and fight the dreaded virus.  Here is a citizen Garima Gupta sharing food items to the needy – appreciate noble souls like her.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

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