Panic buying in cities
Consumers Wednesday thronged the country’s supermarkets and mega stores in major cities of Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu ahead of the announced lockdown which starts on Saturday.
President Peter Mutharika on Tuesday announced that the country will go on a 21- day lockdown as part of measures to fight the spread of the coronavirus.
A snap survey in supermarkets in the cities revealed increased numbers of consumers purchasing consumables such as maize flour, sugar, cooking oil, toilet paper, soaps and other groceries in large quantities.
A Manager at one of the supermarkets at Chichiri Shopping Mall likened the business of the day to December 24, when people buy for Christmas despite being the middle of the month.
One of the buyers, Tiku Nthunzi, said she was forced to borrow money to purchase necessary household items ahead of the lockdown.
“We were taken by surprise by the President’s lockdown announcement because this is the middle of the month and we do not have enough money to buy commodities that can sustain our livelihoods for 21 days,” Nthunzi said.
Another consumer found at the Lilongwe City Mall, Kolesi Kotokwa, said it was unprecedented considering that countries that have effected lockdowns are more economically advanced than Malawi. He was, however, quick to say that people should take it positively to contain the spread of the virus.
Though traffic was not as much in supermarkets in Mzuzu, consumers were seen procuring the mentioned household items in large quantities.
“Yes, we do not have money but I felt like the little that I have I should spend on basic needs such as sugar, cooking oil and maize flour,” said Mercy Nyirenda from Luwinga Township in the Northern Region district.
Another customer Edward Nyirongo said people do not have money and suggested the lockdown should have been effected towards the end of the month.
Economist Collen Kaluwa said the development will result in prices of various commodities going up by tomorrow.
“This time of the month people’s disposable income is low and certainly producing companies have reduced production. However, since there is panic buying, sellers will resort to increase prices of the consumables,” Kaluwa said.
The private sector and small-scale business owners have strongly spoken against the lockdown, stressing that it will push Malawi’s economy to its knees.