No crush at Jakarta stores … but staple food items are in short supply

Regional Economic CRUNCH

THE rush has ended in supermarkets and stores less than a week after Indonesians went on a buying spree to hoard foodstuff. But many reported shortages of staples and were awaiting new supplies.

A Straits Times check yesterday found that most supermarkets, retail stores and wet markets in the capital had resumed normal trading activities without last week’s pandemonium.

The relative stability of the rupiah and a government announcement that it would distribute food and other basic supplies to supermarkets, retail stores and traditional markets appeared to have stemmed the buying frenzy.

“Biasa saja” – normal only – was how Price Smart supermarket chain assistant manager Budi Santoso described the situation. “It is much calmer now.”

He said his supermarket had not been prepared for the buying frenzy which wiped out food stocks from shelves last Thursday and Friday.

“It was crazy. It was like preparing for war. It was five times the normal crowd and there were very long queues. I never saw anything like this before,” he said.

Thousands flocked to supermarkets, stores and traditional markets throughout the capital in a buying spree after the rupiah hit 10,000 against the US dollar.

They resorted to panic buying, fearing the rupiah’s free fall would send the price of basic commodities sky high and producers would stop selling their products.

Mr Santoso said up to 10,000 people turned up at his supermarket, which caters to the upper middle class, to buy basic commodities like rice, sugar, milk and flour.

But it was a very different picture yesterday.

A visit to Price Smart store in downtown Jakarta during the afternoon peak hour found no sign of excessive buying by well-to-do Indonesians – criticised by Governor Sutiyoso for being “greedy” and for sparking the panic buying.

The store was well stocked with meat and poultry products, cornflakes, bread, cookies and other foodstuffs. But conspicuously missing from the shelves were staple items like rice, milk and sugar.

The situation was similar in several other supermarkets and stores. Besides basic foodstuff, they had also run out of eggs, instant noodles and cooking oil.

Mr Siswandi, a supervisor at Hero’s supermarket at Sarinah along busy Jalan Tamrin, said the store was waiting for fresh
supplies.

“We doubt there will be a buying frenzy again,” he said. “But we want to stock the shelves again for other customers who might need these basic items.”

Buying could also have tapered off because customers might have been constrained by the increase in the price of foodstuff, some of which had gone up by 50 per cent, he added.

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