Coronavirus: Saudi orders restrictions on basic foodstuffs sold at supermarket, sparking fears of food shortages

Coronavirus: Saudi orders restrictions on basic foodstuffs sold at supermarket, sparking fears of food shortages
Saudi Arabia may face food shortages, reports suggested, feeding fears amid the coronavirus outbreak.
2 min read
14 April, 2020
Saudi Arabia has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the Gulf [AFP]
Saudi Arabia has banned sales retail promotions on food staples including rice and vegetable oil indefinitely, sparking fears over food reserves running out, according to reports.

The promotional deals on essential food items – flour, rice, sugar, cooking oils, meat, poultry, powdered milk, tea and Arabic coffee – have been restricted by the Saudi Ministry of Commerce to ensure stocks last during the coronavirus outbreak, according to local press reports.

Citing a supermarket manager, Jeddah-based news outlet Okaz reported that the ministry has instructed all markets and grocery stores to comply with its latest decision.

"The decision aims to preserve the kingdom's stockpile and prevent a shortage of these items. The Ministry of Commerce is carrying out daily price inspections," Abdallah al-Abbas, a supermarket manager, told Okaz.

The news sparked fears that the Kingdom may face food shortages in the near future.

"They say food stocks are adequate and ample. Ok, then why did the Ministry of Commerce suspend all promotional offers on basic foodstuffs?" a Saudi Twitter user with over 2 million followers wrote in response to the government move.

In response to fears, the Ministry of Commerce posted multiple videos of food reserves including footages from a storage facility for powdered milk and a poultry factory.

"The Ministry of Commerce confirmed that the work in these facilities is running smoothly, in terms of the availability and abundance of goods and necessary food supplies," one official statement said.

The statement also called on consumers to refrain from purchasing food in "excessive" or "wasteful" amounts and urged grocery shoppers to use online applications to get the food items delivered to their homes.

Read also: Are Gulf supply chains weathering the storm during the coronavirus crisis?

The ministry is also reporting the results of its inspection tours of supermarkets in daily reports. In several of these reports, the official body claimed it found "excessive food price violations" and said it issued subsequent fines to violators.

The ministry also said wholesale vegetable suppliers were hiding fruits and vegetables to create scarcity and later sell the goods at higher prices.

In its situation report released on Tuesday, the World Health Organisation said a total of 4462 coronavirus cases had been documented in the Kingdom, leading to 59 confirmed deaths due to complications resulting from infection.

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