Government officials said on Friday that there was no immediate risk to food supplies as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Anticipating panic-buying, the government reviewed the food supply stock available with retailers and wholesalers.
As the number of active coronavirus cases rose to 53 in Maharashtra on Friday, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray intensified government’s lockdown measures, announcing closure of all workplaces and shops in urban belts, including in Mumbai, Pune, Pimpri Chinchwad and Nagpur, till March 31.
While Uddhav has made it clear that the latest restrictions won’t apply to groceries, milk stalls, gas companies, and similar establishments supplying essential services, senior officials did not rule out the possibility of consumers stockpiling essential supplies.
“The supply lines are secure. We have reviewed the foodgrain stock available with both retailers and wholesalers for Mumbai. There is sufficient stock to last for at least another 22 days,” said Kailash Pagare, Controller of Rationing and Director of Civil Supplies. He added that there is another 3.16 lakh metric tonne of foodgrains stored in the Food Corporation of India godowns, which can sustain Mumbai’s public distribution system for nine months.
Under the National Food Security Act where the poor and vulnerable sections are supplied foodgrains at subsidised rates, Mumbai requires around 34,000 metric tonne of supplies a month.
Anil Chavan, Secretary and Administrator, Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), Vashi — the biggest wholesale vegetable and fruit market in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region — said that various safety measures have been put in place and specialised medical teams have been deployed to ensure that the traders, dealers, and others visiting the markets can conduct their trade without fear.
He added that to ensure that the supply chain is not disturbed, all stakeholders have been told that the markets will continue to function.
Pagare said that the availability of cooking gas cylinders was also reviewed. Mumbai needs around 73,000 LPG cylinders daily. While oil companies have assured that there would be no disruption in supplies, they have sought additional police protection for transportation of the cylinders. The government has also urged residents not to hoard milk packets, and has contending that it’s supply was secure.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar on Friday said the state government has decided to provide to below poverty line (BPL) families three months’ ration in advance. “We are providing ration for three months in advance and will also see what can be done for other essential items,” he said in Pune.
He added that since poultry farmers have suffered huge losses due to the fall in demand owing to rumours of chicken consumption spreading the virus, chicken shops should be kept open during the period of shut down (until March 31). “Keep chicken shops open during this period. There’s no doubt that the poultry farmers have suffered. The animal husbandry department is making efforts to repel misconceptions about connection between coronavirus and chicken,” said Pawar.
With inputs from PUNE
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