In this file:
· China scrambles to keep cities in virus lockdown fed
· China Outbreak to Spur Higher Prices as Farm Links Disrupted
China scrambles to keep cities in virus lockdown fed
By Joe McDonald, Associated Press
via Star Tribune (MN) - February 8, 2020
BEIJING — The manager of the Wushang Mart in Wuhan, the locked-down city at the heart of China's virus outbreak, says its shelves are loaded with 50% more vegetables and other food than usual to reassure jittery customers.
Communist leaders are trying to keep food flowing to crowded Chinese cities despite anti-disease controls and to quell fears of possible shortages and price spikes following panic buying after most access to Wuhan was cut off Jan. 23.
Employees at the Wushang Mart wear masks and protective suits. Customers wash their hands with disinfectant and are checked for the virus's telltake fever, said the manager, who would give only her surname, Lu.
"It is normal for people to worry about supply, but we explain there will be enough," Lu said by phone.
Food stocks in supermarkets ran low shortly after Beijing imposed travel curbs and extended the Lunar New Year holiday to keep factories, offices and other businesses closed and the public at home in an attempt to prevent the virus from spreading.
That also kept trucks off the road, disrupting supplies of food to markets, feed to farmers and poultry to slaughterhouses. As the shutdown of Wuhan expanded to cover cities with a total of 60 million people, villagers set up their own roadblocks to keep outsiders and possible infection away.
This week, a Cabinet official acknowledged vegetable supplies were uneven and some "daily necessities" were sold out.
"These problems are being coordinated and resolved," Lian Weiliang, deputy chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, said at a Feb. 3 news conference in Beijing.
Later that day, state TV announced the ruling Communist Party order local authorities nationwide to "ensure the supply of daily necessities" including vegetables, meat, eggs, milk and grain.
The following day, the Agriculture Ministry told officials to unblock transportation and "ensure normal operation" of livestock and feed production. Unauthorized roadblocks were banned.
Merchants were warned earlier against hoarding and price-gouging. The Shanghai city government said it fined a supermarket 2 million yuan ($270,000) for raising the price of cabbage by 400%.
To reassure the public, state media are filled with photos of boxes stuffed with eggplants, cauliflower and other vegetables being loaded onto trucks for delivery to markets.
Party leaders in Shenzhen, a city of 15 million people adjacent to Hong Kong that is a center for finance and technology, sent officials to rural Yunnan province in the southwest to make sure vegetable shipments resumed quickly after the holiday, the Shenzhen News Net reported.
China already was struggling with surging food prices due to an outbreak of African swine fever that began in 2018. Millions of pigs died or were destroyed, disrupting supplies of pork, the country's staple meat.
The price of pork doubled in December from a year earlier, pushing up overall food costs by double digits. The government has released pork from stockpiles but industry analysts say prices and the size of Chinese pig herds are unlikely to return to normal until at least next year.
In quarantined areas, trucks...
China Outbreak to Spur Higher Prices as Farm Links Disrupted
· Prices were already rising the fastest since 2011 in January
· Supply and transport shutdowns could cause faster inflation
February 10, 2020
China’s consumer prices rose the fastest in more than eight years last month, with the outbreak of the coronavirus and subsequent shutdowns of transport links across the country making further gains in the coming months likely.
Consumer prices rose 5.4%, with food prices jumping the most since 2008 in January. Even before the coronavirus, prices were likely to have risen sharply due to the normal spike in demand around the Lunar New Year and the effects of the African Swine Fever outbreak which has killed millions of pigs and damaged pork supplies. Pork prices gained the most on record.
The dramatically worsening coronavirus situation in the last 10 days of the month exacerbated those factors and could prolong the high prices. That will not only hurt consumption domestically, but could push up prices globally, with extended shutdowns in China hurting supplies of various industrial goods and exported foods.
“The virus outbreak has rewritten the supply and demand story in China, with supply staying at a relatively low level except for the medical sector and demand also falling,” said Tommy Xie, an economist at Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp in Singapore. “Prices will likely continue to rise due to weak supply.”
The fallout will also impact foreign companies with production or sales in China, and may well lead to rising prices for consumer goods in the U.S. and elsewhere if factories can’t restart soon.
Apple Inc.’s main iPhone production partner has told employees at its Shenzhen facility not to return to work Monday when the extended Lunar New Year break ends, and its production resumption hinges on the government’s guidance.
Other multinationals with footprints in China are already seeing disruptions...
Blockages Forbidden ...
more, including links, chart, video [5:49 min.]