Traders, grocery stores and pharmacies across Karachi have reached consensus that they have enough supplies for the city if shopping stays normal amid the coronavirus self-isolation term. They warned, however, that if people start hoarding groceries and panic they will upset the demand-supply equation.
“For God’s sake, stop hoarding flour,” said Karachi Atta Chakki Association head Anis Shahid. “We have enough to provide for the city if people act rationally.”
He said that Karachi’s monthly demand was roughly 25,000 metric tons which can be met. “People buying 200 bags of flour will create panic so they can sell it in black,” he added, urging households to shop as they do routinely.
SAMAA Money spoke to key people running grocery stores, dairy markets, vegetable and fruit markets, pharmacies, online stores and manufacturing units—they all had the same message: do not panic buy. The Commissioner Karachi office confirmed that all stores and markets that deal in medicines, essentials and edibles will remain open. No shutdown is planned as it would disrupt the supply chain.
Karachi’s major superstores, Carrefour, Imtiaz, Agha’s, Mottas, Naheed, Bin Hashim, are open without any disturbance. The footfall in these retailer markets have not only doubled, said their representatives, but people have started buying in excess. (Chase Value Centre is closed for physical shopping but is open for online buying.)
Time Medicos, Tayyab, Dvago, Ehad and pharmacies that deal in other supplies are open. However, most of them have run low on specific over-the-counter medicines and sanitary products.
Dvago’s operations manager Dr Masood Ahmed said that they were out of hand sanitizers and over-the-counter medicines for the cold and flu. They are working on procuring supplies. “We are now considering 24/7 operations in at least four of our 13 stores in Karachi.”
Pharmaceutical representatives said that due to the suspension of Out-Patient Departments (OPDs), the demand for medicines has dropped because people only buy from pharmacies generally when doctors prescribe to them. “People with certain conditions were buying regular medicines and in fact were buying more out of fear, but prescription medicine sales have dropped in two days,” said Muhammad Aqib of a local pharmaceutical company.
Unilever Pakistan and Nestle Pakistan said that while they have received news of demand-side pressure, they will wait for credible data until next week to confirm the numbers. “We are ready to make sure there are no gaps in demand and supply,” said Husain Talib of Unilever Pakistan.
An official of Nestle said that the pressure has “not translated into gaps in terms of our supplies”, and that distributors will confirm about demand data in the days to come.
The central vegetable and fruit market on the Karachi highway, Sabzi Mandi, which supplies the entire city, said it was receiving a mixed response. Trader Suleman Khawja said that families, other than retailers, were coming to buy in bulk. However, people were also staying home so overall traffic had slumped. “I’m in the market [on Thursday] sitting alone and killing flies here,” he said.
Dairy Farmers Association in Karachi chief Haji Mohammad Akhtar told Samaa Money that they are actually suffering because restaurants, dhabas have closed. “But from our side, no stoppage in supply and we’ll have to bear the losses from this pandemic.”
Pakistan Poultry Association central convenor Khalid Saleem Malik said that imported supplies that provide chickenfeed have stopped and that could affect their production in the near future. “But for now, things are normal.”
Only shopping malls and the electronics market, have been shut down. Even restaurants and other vendors are making home deliveries.
Abeer Mahar adds: A salesperson at Ambala bakery, Nursery said they have seen more customers coming in ever since the government announced a two-week shut-down for restaurants and eateries. He said customers are buying eggs, butter and bread. Similarly, a salesperson at N’eco’s Defence, said people are buying and stocking up the most on bread. United Bakery at Teen Talwar said samosas were going fast.