How does China feed the city under lockdown?

How China feeds tens of millions of people in a blockade city

China made sure major cities could self-sufficient food supplies when it imposed a blockade and quickly switched to selling online.

When Covid-19 spread strongly in China in the first months of 2020, the country imposed many measures to blockade major cities, home to tens of millions of people, strictly restricting the entry and exit of places. this side.

One of the top concerns of government officials and residents when imposing a blockade is the ability to ensure food for people in the city. Although some reports of people rushing to hoard, skyrocketing food prices and concerns about food freshness have surfaced on Chinese social media, in general food supply and prices in Chinese cities under lockdown remain stable.

Experts believe that this can be a lesson for countries to apply food security measures to cities that have to blockade to fight the epidemic, in the context that food shortages can become a challenge. serious for many countries when Covid-19 complicated developments.

Community workers and volunteers sort and pack groceries from a supermarket in Wuhan in early 2020. Photo: Reuters.

An important factor in maintaining food security is Various forms of food sales in Chinese cities. The outbreak has taken an unexpected hit to online food markets operated by the private sector.

While millions of people were stuck at home, brick-and-mortar markets were closed, and online food markets became a popular form of retail. In cities where e-commerce thrives, stores and restaurants are rapidly shifting from selling in person to online.

It is estimated that the number of people under the age of 25 in China buying fresh vegetables from online markets increased by more than 250%, while the number of patrons over 55 years old of online stores increased by nearly 400 percent.

Some of the most popular online food markets saw a 470% increase in sales year-over-year. Millions of orders are recorded every day and delivered to the door or to the gathering point next to the blockaded buildings for people to pick up.

China’s online food markets will not succeed if Beijing does not adopt an urban food security policy called “vegetable basket program”.

Proposed in 1988, the program requires city mayors to be responsible for providing, ensuring the affordable and safe availability of non-grain foods, mainly vegetables and meat.

Wuhan, the epicenter of Covid-19 in China in early 2020, is among 35 major cities that the central government reviews every two years for the effectiveness of the program implementation.

Cities will get high marks if there are improvements in delivery facilities in their neighborhoods, like password lockers for food delivery and pickup, and ensuring there are multiple food outlets like supermarkets. , a small grocery store and most importantly a fresh market.

Rigorous assessment ensures that every region has a wide and varied supply network of vegetables and meat. When Covid-19 hit, cities with high scores were able to adapt and ensure food security for their citizens.

Local governments set specific goals for self-sufficiency in different foods to demonstrate their commitment to the vegetable basket program. The city of Nanjing, with a population of 8 million, aims to be 90% self-sufficient in leafy vegetables between 2008 and 2012.

This goal of local food production comes with strict farmland maintenance plans. Chinese cities often have large town areas outside the inner city districts. Farmland in these towns is protected for the implementation of the vegetable basket program.

Food security in China is also underpinned by the system food reserves. The Chinese government has long operated a system to buy excess grain and pork with minimal purchase prices. They release stocks to the market in case of food shortages and rising prices.

In 2018, China’s total grain reserves were estimated at 120 million tons of corn, 100 million tons of rice, 74 million tons of wheat and 8 million tons of soybeans. The emergency grain reserve ensures a 10-15 day supply of refined grain in major cities.

To ensure the process freight Favorably, China establishes a “green channel”, allowing vehicles carrying agricultural products to pass through a quarantine station or toll station with a pass issued by the provincial government. The pass allows them not to be required to park, pay a fee, or be subject to lengthy checks. Officers at the checkpoint also assist with vehicle disinfection. When the vehicle reached its destination, officials took the driver’s temperature, recorded the schedule, and disinfected the vehicle again before allowing it to enter the facility.

In January 2020, the State Tax Administration of China announced that any income from the transportation of critical items during the crisis, including agricultural products, would be exempt from value added tax. The government also provides financial support to improve cold storage and storage facilities for family and cooperative farms.

When the city of Wuhan was locked down early last year, the Hubei provincial government worked with retailers in other localities, including as far away as Yunnan or Hainan, to provide food. for the city. They also strongly cracked down on traders who had hoarding or speculative behavior to prevent prices from escalating.

As a result, despite being locked down for a long time, nearly tens of millions of people in Wuhan are still not short of food, while supermarkets and shops still ensure the supply. “These facilities all meet our needs,” Cai, a 40-year-old resident of Wuhan, said last year.

Zhenzhong Si, an expert from the University of Waterloo in Canada, said that to adapt to the pandemic, national governments should “restructure food supply chains that are too dependent on the supermarket system and imported food. from far away countries”.

Encouraging the development of diverse food production businesses through urban food system planning will improve crisis response and provide greater support to local and local food producers than transnational food corporations.

“They are the safety nets we look to in an increasingly uncertain world,” Si wrote.

Phuong Vu (According to the CNA/FAO)


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