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More and more people in Japan have started baking to pass time at home as they refrain from outings due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to shortages of flour products on store shelves.

The agriculture ministry is urging consumers not to panic, saying there is a sufficient amount of wheat in stock.

“It’s just that supply has temporarily been unable to keep up with the sudden surge in demand,” a ministry official said.

The number of online searches for sweets has surged on the recipe website Kurashiru since the government declared a nationwide COVID-19 state of emergency in mid-April.

“I guess people started to entertain themselves with food after getting tired of exercising self-restraint,” an official at the website operator said.

At Tomiz, a Tokyo-based operator of stores that specialize in baking ingredients and accessories, the demand for flour, butter and dry yeast started rising in late March.

The company saw sales of flour products grow by nearly five times from a year earlier. Since April 21, the company has limited the number of orders it will take, citing concerns over possible delays in deliveries.

Demand for wheat for home use started increasing in March and then flour and pancake mix became in short supply mainly at retailers in central Tokyo, according to the agriculture ministry.

Mercari Inc., an online flea market app operator, saw listings of flour products start increasing in late April when shortages became more severe. The company said it will delete products that are priced extremely high.

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