Lan Mu/World Journal

Shoppers are stocking up on supplies like groceries. (Lan Mu/World Journal)

Read the original story in Chinese at World Journal
Translated and condensed by Rong Xiaoqing

Even before New York’s first cases of coronavirus were confirmed this week, the epidemic was causing a new round of panic in the city, with some residents stocking up on supplies like groceries and hand sanitizer.

In the Chinese community, people started to hoard rice and other durable foods. Several Chinese supermarkets found their sales of rice had jumped 50 percent, and some were out of stock temporarily.

Jianxi Wu, manager of the A & C Supermarket in Flushing, saw an uptick in customers buying large amounts of rice starting Feb 26. By the next morning, the store had sold out of 200 bags of a certain brand of rice from Thailand that is popular among Chinese customers.

“The sales of rice were 40 to 50 percent more than usual,” Wu said, adding that the supermarket placed an order for 2,000 bags of rice from its suppliers to meet the demand. 

Wu said the supermarket will guarantee it maintains an adequate rice supply and won’t raise prices, nor will it impose a quota limiting customers’ purchases at the moment.  He expects the shopping rush, triggered by fear of the coronavirus epidemic, to last for at least two weeks. He called for customers to buy rationally, and reminded them that rice eventually expires.

Peter Huang, manager of the J-mart Supermarket, said rice has become a hot commodity there as well. On the morning of Feb. 27, customers often purchased eight bags at once. Huang also promised to keep an ample supply at stable prices, and the store planned to offer 20-pound bags of rice at a discounted price of to show gratuity to customers. 

In addition to rice, the store managers said instant noodles, canned food and eggs were also in high demand recently, with sales jumped 20 to 40 percent.

Anna Zhao, who lives in Nassau County, Long Island, went to purchase rice at a Chinese supermarket in Flushing in the evening last Thurday. Zhao said she was very busy at work, but when she saw that the coronavirus epidemic was getting worse via messages in WeChat, she decided to stop after work to buy three bags of rice.

“I have a big family,” said Zhao. “I’ll store the rice in the basement to prepare for the worst.”

Lin Zhang, a resident of Richmond Hill, Queens, said he had not gone shopping in Flushing in the past month due to the fear of the coronavirus. Now worried things might get worse, he decided to put on a face mask and gloves and ventured to a Chinese supermarket here. He bought six bags of rice that day.