Groceries stockpile goods amid supply disruption worries

We are trying to ensure imports of goods and commodities responsibly: Economic Affairs Minister

In anticipation of the supply of goods and services getting disturbed with the covid-19 cases surge in India, grocery stores are focusing on stockpiling supplies to be supplied to retailers and then to consumers later in the country.

An owner of a grocery store in Thimphu said they are, however, paying almost double the cost price of the essential items.

He said that household products and essential items have been difficult to find at times during the pandemic. “If grocery stores aren’t stocked up and prepared for the second wave, runs on products and shortages could happen again,” he said.

“We are stocking up to avoid shortages during the second wave of coronavirus,” he said.

However, people are already complaining about the market prices of commodities and worried about the inflation rate as they prices of most products have gone up.

Another grocery store near the Centenary Farmers Market (CFM) said the cost price of cooking oil and rice has been increasing weekly. 

“We are not able to maintain the prices that we had before the pandemic because the prices of the commodities in India have increased,” she added.

She shared that last week they were selling cooking oil at Nu 550 for the big jar and this week they have to sell it at Nu 660, which is almost Nu 110 increase in price. And the rice price per sack had increased almost by Nu 250 from the actual prices in the market.

Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma said it is good that grocery stores are stockpiling at this moment. The ministry is also constantly monitoring the situation and activating its contingency plans to minimize disruptions to the economy and the people.

“We are trying to ensure imports of goods and commodities responsibly,” the Lyonpo said, adding that the Department of Trade (DoT) has instituted a dedicated team that monitors and advises on market adequacy of goods and commodities.

In addition, Lyonpo shared that to address the supply shortage of agricultural commodities, they are banking on the increased vegetable production so that the supply will be adequate.

While the ministry acknowledges the rising prices during such difficult times, the minister said the government will at least ensure that the costs do not escalate due to market shortages, supply chain disruption, and inadequacy.

The Lyonpo shared that during the lockdown also the supply of essentials from India was not stopped and the movement of vehicles carrying the essentials will be facilitated.

“But the tax rate in India has also increased,” he added.

Meanwhile, there has been a recent price escalation on certain commodities in the market.

The Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) under the economic affairs ministry is going to monitor the price fluctuation.

OCP officials said that there are complaints about price increase in commodities in the market.

“When there is a price escalation beyond the cost price, the office will monitor whether the grocery store is taking situational advantages,” an OCP official said.

“Imported products such as rice and oil are in short supply due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the market price has also increased as per the demand,” he said, adding that the office will look into the cost price at the border and market price to monitor the price fluctuation.

Kinley Yonten from Thimphu