There is no need for the public to panic buy and hoard food even if the government declares a state of emergency as a result of novel coronavirus, retail industry and other experts said.
Japan has an ample food stocks, and purchasing such supplies will not be restricted, according to the experts.
At a news conference Wednesday, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike asked the capital’s residents to stay home and avoid nonessential outings, warning that a lockdown of Tokyo may become necessary if the virus keeps spreading.
Following the announcement, Tokyoites rushed to retail outlets to stock up. Many food shelves were emptied in grocery stores and elsewhere.
Japan’s rice stockpile is large enough to meet six months of national demand, while its wheat stockpile is equivalent to more than two months of demand, according to the agriculture ministry.
Food shortages at stores are temporary since production, distribution and imports have not stopped, the ministry said.
The COVID-19 crisis “does not increase the amounts of food we eat,” a ministry official said, adding that there is no need to buy more than is necessary.
Shopping in crowded stores “increase infection risks,” said social psychologist Naoya Sekiya, associate professor at the University of Tokyo.
The governor’s news conference “conveyed a sense of crisis,” Sekiya said. “But the word ‘lockdown’ drew too much attention, and why self-restraints are important was not communicated well.”
Even in the event of a lockdown, “food stores will not close because they are essential infrastructure,” Sekiya said.
Food hoarding happens because it is easier to imagine a food shortage than infection, he said.
Persistent shortages of medical masks also led many to expect that food will also run short, even though the situations surrounding masks and food are totally different, according to Sekiya.
Aichi Institute of Technology Prof. Tomio Kobayashi, a distribution industry expert, warned that hoarding leads to oversupply, which causes food loss.
Many families store food and just forget about it, he said, adding that this is a good opportunity to consume such food.
“Plan purchases and buy only necessary amounts,” Kobayashi added.
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