Beijing’s Virus Clampdown Spurs Food Price Surge and Shortages

(Bloomberg) --

Beijing’s move to prevent the spread of Covid-19 infections to the capital city is triggering a spike in food prices, with some supplies of meat and vegetables running out quickly amid fears of a shortage.

The political and cultural center of China is testing truck drivers who are delivering food supplies via highways in the neighboring province of Hebei, where a city of 11 million people has been locked down after the emergence of some 200 virus cases, the country’s worst outbreak in about two months.

The move has held up fruit and vegetable supplies as trucks that need to pass through Hebei to Beijing are unable to enter, said Wang Changyu, a vegetable dealer at Beijing’s biggest wholesale market Xinfadi. One local wet market visited by a Bloomberg reporter on Monday had sold out of pork early in the morning and turnips by midday. Prices of some fruits and vegetables doubled.

“Vegetable truck drivers are asked to present a negative nucleic acid test certificate before they are allowed entry,” said Wang. “How can they be tested if they’re already on their way to Beijing before the requirement?”

As a result, some vegetable supplies have been sharply reduced. Prices of Chinese scallion, one of the most common ingredients in Chinese cooking and used to make dumplings, have jumped more than seven times since the start of the year, Wang said. Beijing relies on southern regions such as Hainan, Yunnan and Sichuan for its supply of vegetables, which have to pass through Hebei.

It isn’t just the extensive virus testing that has pushed up food prices. Chilly weather increases logistical and transportation costs, while record corn prices have boosted meat and poultry prices, including pork, mutton and eggs, contributing to inflation in December, according to the statistics bureau.