March 19, 2020 / 1:12 PM / in 12 days

Panic buying forces South African supermarkets to ration food

JOHANNESBURG, March 19 (Reuters) - South Africa’s biggest supermarket Shoprite will limit purchases of some food products and medicines, it said on Thursday, as frantic shoppers stripped shelves to prepare for possible isolation during the coronavirus outbreak.

As the spread of the infection triggers panic buying across the world, South African retailers are saying they are working with their suppliers to ensure a consistent supply of products like meat and canned food, and medicine.

Countries across Africa reporting their first coronavirus cases have seen a rush on shops, with customers piling trolleys with wipes, sanitizer, and staples like rice and long-life milk.

To ensure more people have access to everyday essentials, Shoprite said it is now rationing the sale of toilet paper, tissues, wipes, liquid soap, hand sanitizer as well as some tinned foods, cereals, antiseptic disinfectant liquids, medicines and vitamins.

On Wednesday, Woolworths said it is introducing a limit of only three items per product and per customer on every grocery line, while Massmart’s Makro has also restricted purchases of essential items like rice, frozen chicken and toilet paper.

“Unfortunately many consumers have not yet heeded to the call to refrain from stockpiling, therefore rationing the sale of certain products has become necessary,” Shoprite said in a statement.

Shoprite said it has also allocated special till points for pensioners and vulnerable people including those with disabilities at its Shoprite and Checkers supermarkets.

“The group appeals to senior citizens to shop outside of peak travel times and when stores are quieter to minimise exposure,” it said. (Reporting by Nqobile Dludla, Editing by William Maclean)

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