DON’T BLAME PANIC BUYING – FOOD SHORTAGE A CLEAR & PRESENT DANGER UNLESS MUHYIDDIN & CO BUCK UP!

PETALING JAYA: An academic has warned of periods of food shortage if the government fails to address disruptions in distribution due to the movement control order (MCO).

Fatimah Mohamed Arshad, a researcher at Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Institute of Agricultural and Food Policy Studies, said logistical disruptions would cause delays in the restocking of food items.

“Timing is important in any supply chain,” she said. “It should be smooth to ensure just-in-time delivery.

“Panic buying has caused a short-term deficit in the food inventory since supply could not match the outburst in demand. Supply will respond, but it will take time.”

She foresees more panic buying if the Covid-19 pandemic does not subside and the MCO is extended.

“The supply of food can be chaotic and may cause prices to increase and it may cause social disruption, as has happened in Sicily,” she warned.

The enforcement of restricted movement has affected market operating hours.

“This, too, has distorted not only the timing of delivery but other logistical arrangements from the point of harvesting by the farmers to the shelving of items by the retailers,” Fatimah said. “Abrupt adjustments are very costly to suppliers.”

She said both farmers and wholesalers were heavily burdened by the restrictions.

Delivery trucks are now subjected to rigorous checks by the authorities. Fatimah said this was causing not only late delivery but also deterioration in the quality of fresh produce and thereby a reduction in farmers’ income.

Fatimah Mohamed Arshad

She said the profit margins of wholesalers were also reduced because they were not able to do business at night markets and Pasars Tani, which are banned under the MCO.

She suggested a revision of the restrictions on food flow and the identification of major points of food production and consumption.

As a short-term solution, she said, major food producers and suppliers must be allowed to transport their products to the markets more smoothly, with fewer restrictions on timing but stricter control on the health of the traders and workers at every point in the network.

“For this, we need a faster Covid-19 testing kit to be used on the industry players and support from the government machineries.

“If need be, rationing should be imposed to ensure adequate supply for everyone. There should also be a plea to consumers to be compassionate to others by buying only what they need.”

For a long-term plan, she said, the authorities would have to embark on the massive job of collecting data on various aspects of distribution, such as the number of people involved and the status of their health and facts to use in drawing clear descriptions of the networks.

The consumer affairs and domestic trade ministry has repeatedly assured the public that there would be no shortage of food.

The agriculture and agro-based industry ministry says on its website that existing agricultural activities will continue to ensure adequate supply of fresh produce such as meat and vegetables. It says imported food such as certain milk and meat products and certain vegetables and fruits are currently still available.

However, social media users have been reporting that supermarkets are short of some food items, including bread. FREE MALAYSIA TODAY

Demand explodes for New York food banks

Volunteers from City Harvest food bank distribute food in Harlem, New York City. AFP
Volunteers from City Harvest food bank distribute food in Harlem, New York City. AFP

By Catherine TRIOMPHE

New York (AFP) — New York food banks have become inundated with newcomers deprived of income since the near-total halt of business in the United States’ economic capital.

Sacks of oranges, sweet potatoes and onions are spread over three tables at an open-air market in Washington Heights, a neighborhood in the north of Manhattan. Sterilized milk and cans of tuna and salmon cover three others.

Hundreds of people came over the weekend to restock at the distribution center, one of many run by City Harvest, a major New York-based charity.

There are no long lines reminiscent of the soup kitchens of the 1930s. Instead, people trickle in, often wearing masks for protection and keeping their distance from each other under the direction of market volunteers.

Among the customers is Lina Alba, 40, a single mother with five children aged between 11 and 23. She worked as a maid in a Manhattan hotel until it closed two weeks ago.

Her two oldest children also lost their jobs.

“It is my first time,” she said. “We need the help now. This is crazy. So we don’t know what’s gonna happen in a few weeks.”

She’s trying to stay positive, though. “At least I’m spending time with my kids… I am the teacher, I am the mom — I am everything.”

“We are alive, we are healthy, we just need to pray.”

It took the single mother a week to register for unemployment — the service flooded, pointing to much worse unemployment numbers than those announced by the federal government on Thursday.

But on Friday, “I did it, finally,” Alba said, relieved.

The benefits should start arriving in three weeks. Alba also hopes to receive soon at least $1,200 from the federal government, thanks to a historic aid package passed last week by Congress.

“It’s not gonna be enough,” but “you’re gonna appreciate anything right now,” she said, noting that “a lot of people” need help.

“It is the whole entire city.”

Millions need help

A woman carries bags with food from the City Harvest food bank in Harlem, New York City. AFP
A woman carries bags with food from the City Harvest food bank in Harlem, New York City. AFP

Jose Neri, 51, is one of many Hispanic employees who worked in now-closed New York restaurants. He also came to a food bank for the first time.

There are five people in his family. “We’re using our savings to survive,” he said in Spanish, wearing a mask and gloves in an effort to prevent himself from catching the virus.

“We’ve got what we need to hold it together for now,” he said. He is also counting on the federal government’s promised assistance to low-income workers.

Jhordana Ramirez, 39, has to keep working, despite the high risk of infection in a city that has recorded tens of thousands of cases.

She’s a home caregiver for senior citizens, who “depend 100 percent” on her, she explained in Spanish.

The pandemic has had an “enormous” effect on her household, she said. Her husband and oldest daughter lost their jobs. Her youngest daughter, just eight years old, is “anxious” and can’t keep still.

“I try to save as much as possible, especially for the rent, bills like electricity, cable, food and all those things,” she said. She is also impatiently waiting for her federal check.

City Harvest employee Geraldine Fermin has heard stories like this a lot since most New York City business closed down two weeks ago.

“It’s heartbreaking that it has to be like that for a lot of people,” she said.

“People that were poor are now poorer, and people that had decent jobs, that could get by, now are poor too.”

“Before, there were 1.2 million people in New York who needed help for food. Now, there are three times as many, that’s more than three million New Yorkers,” said City Harvest vice president Eric Ripert.

Ripert also owns the famous restaurant Le Bernardin, closed due to the coronavirus.

Speaking in French, Ripert said that City Harvest, which in addition to its markets also supplies food to some 400 homeless shelters, does not currently have any supply problems.

But it needs funds to buy more food, and so it is teaming up with other organizations to create a united front against “a situation that will get worse.”

“We got through September 11, the great recession of 2008-2009, we got through a lot of things, but none of that is comparable to this catastrophe that we’re living through,” Ripert said.

A man receives bags with food from City Harvest food bank. AFP

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