The Daily Manila Shimbun


No need to hoard food: Japan experts

March 30, 2020

Tokyo--The public does not need to panic buy and hoard food even if Japanese government declares a state of emergency to fight the novel coronavirus, retail industry and other experts say.

Japan has enough stock of food, and going out to buy food will not be restricted, according to the experts.

At a news conference Wednesday, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike asked the capital's residents to stay home except for essential needs, warning that a lockdown of Tokyo may become necessary if coronavirus infections keep increasing.

Following the announcement, Tokyoites rushed to retail stores. Many shelves for food items went empty.

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 at all, 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 necessary amounts of food.

Shopping in crowded stores "increase infection risks," said social psychologist Naoya Sekiya, associate professor at the University of Tokyo. "It's absurd."

The governor's press conference "conveyed her sense of crisis well," 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.

"Enough amounts are secured," Kobayashi said. "Plan purchases and buy only necessary amounts."

Many families store food and just forget about it, he said, adding that this is a good opportunity to consume such food.

"Supermarkets are critical infrastructure like medical institutions," he said, calling for compulsory rules to limit the amounts of purchases. Jiji Press