People stock up on groceries at a Lake Market shop on Wednesday
KOLKATA: Rumours of a blanket lockdown led to panic buying on Wednesday as long queues returned to grocery shops across the city. No one wanted to take any chance and tried to buy enough essentials to see them through a few days, even before they knew whether their residences were in containment zones.
“After nearly three months, we found a queue in front of our shop. In just an hour, half of our stock was sold out. We sold nearly 5,000kg of rice in just two hours. People are scared. No logic or past experience — complete availability of essentials throughout the lockdown — seemed to deter customers,” said Anil Patra, a rice trader in Behala.
“I don’t want to take any risk. If my neighbourhood is included in the list of containment zones, what will I do? We don’t know if mobile vendors will be allowed in or if the markets would remain open,” said Debabrata Ghosh, a resident of Prem Chand Boral Street who reached College Street market at 8am.
Some vendors who had not anticipated such a rush ran out of stock within a couple of hours. “Those who normally purchase two varieties of vegetables went for four to five today. They also increased the quantity they purchased. I had sold out all vegetables by 9.30am,” said Afzal Molla, vegetable vendor outside College Street market.
Market committees tried to calm the buyers’ nerves by saying the government won’t shut down supply of essentials and markets would remain open.
“We are expecting a similar situation on Thursday morning, too, because people are panicking. They want to stock up their pantry for any eventuality,” said Arijit Gayen, a member of the Maniktala Traders’ Welfare Association.
With sudden surge in demand, some retailers have also jacked up prices of edibles.
“The mustard oil, which I used to buy at Rs 120 per litre rose to Rs 135 on Wednesday. Even dal and spices appeared costlier. Since we do not track the prices of these items on a daily basis, it is always difficult to say whether there is spike in price,” said Alok Moitra, a Parnashree resident.
“We tried to keep track of the retail prices of essentials at markets. A section of traders, though minuscule in size, indulge in dishonest practices and take advantage of the situation. In some places, the market association has identified them. We hope a strong step is taken against such people,” said a member of the Market Task Force.