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Food Prices Soar Amid Extended COVID Lockdown in Shanghai

A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: April 18, 2022
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Residents wait in a queue to get tested for COVID-19 in a compound during a lockdown in Pudong district in Shanghai on April 17, 2022. (Image: LIU JIN/AFP via Getty Images)

For weeks now, Shanghai has been under strict lockdown in an effort to control a surging outbreak of COVID-19. The country’s most populous city of 26 million people has seen its residents trapped at home, struggling to feed themselves or receive medical care for sick family members. Others have been forced into makeshift quarantine centers and temporary hospitals, unsure when they will be allowed to leave.

As Shanghai enters its third week of lockdown, the city recorded 22,248 new cases on April 18, out of which 2,417 were reportedly symptomatic. Since April, the city has been reporting over 20,000 new infections everyday.

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Locked down residents have taken to social media to show how food prices in Shanghai have soared by 5 to 10 times their normal amount. Residents were told by their neighborhood committees that food and supplies would be delivered to their homes everyday. However, this has not always been the case and some residents have reported waiting several days for new deliveries. In other cases, the food had already gone bad by the time it was delivered and could not be consumed.

In a video shot by an experienced restaurant owner, he broke down the current cost of vegetables, meat, eggs, and seafood as:

  • 10 jin (5 kg or about 11 lb) of vegetables and 2 jin of pork were being sold for 250 yuan, about $40 (compared to 30 yuan previously, or less than $5)
  • Vegetables such as cucumbers, lettuce, radishes, and potatoes were being sold for 250 yuan per jin compared to 50 yuan before the lockdown began
  • Other meats such as chicken and beef were being sold for 190 yuan, about $30 (compared to 80 yuan before – over double the price)

After calculating the costs, the courier said, “The price of goods in Shanghai at the moment is about 5 to 10 times higher than usual.”

The delivery courier then looks into the camera and says, “There are no droughts, floods, or recent swine fever or bird flu outbreaks, so why have food prices increased by so much?”

Videos shot by other locked down Shanghai residents have shown that some neighborhood committees have kept the delivered food and supplies in order to drive up more demand and thereby increase food prices as a whole.

Screenshot of a menu for online purchases (Image: via The Epoch Times/Screenshot)
The Chinese caption reads: Price of vegetables and meat is 888 yuan (about $140), delivery fee is 700 yuan (about $109) (Image: via The Epoch Times/Screenshot)
A gift package of meat with a price of 14,900 yuan ($2340), with delivery only accepted within the Puxi area of Shanghai. (Image: via Weibo)

Another delivery courier said in a Twitter video that it wasn’t just the cost of groceries that had skyrocketed — even the price of other goods such as cigarettes and alcohol had also soared.

“Many people are trying to order cigarettes. But do you know the cost of cigarettes in Shanghai right now?” 

Daqianmen, a brand of soft cigarettes, is being sold for 261 yuan (about $41) compared to its usual price of 9 yuan ($1.41) before the lockdowns commenced. Another cigarette brand used to sell for about 11 yuan ($1.73) but is now selling for 300 yuan ($47). 

In addition, the courier listed the wholesale prices as 45 yuan ($7) for a pack of smokes in the past, but those costs have risen to 1,700 yuan ($267) for a pack of a dozen cigarettes now. 

Starving in their homes

A video shot by a citizen living inside a community home in Shanghai’s Putuo district showed that the residents — most of whom are elderly people — were told by the community’s neighborhood committee that they could not place online purchases. They could only wait for the government courier deliveries. However, when the deliveries finally arrived, most of the boxes were filled with rotten vegetables. 

In other cases, the management was so poorly organized that bags filled with food would start to spoil because nobody was notifying locked down residents to come down to the lobby to pick them up. 

A locked down resident residing in the Xuhui district said that government officials were keeping the food and supplies for themselves. “You keep us home for more than a month and you don’t deliver any supplies to us… You’d rather let the food spoil because we aren’t allowed to leave our homes to pick it up.”

‘What kind of country is this?!’

Another video showed that government officials in Shanghai’s Baoshan district were filming videos of couriers delivering food and supplies to residents. However, after the videos were shot, the officials would take away all the supplies from the residents. The resident filming the video said: “Look! They took all that food away. We don’t get to keep anything!” 

During an April 13 press conference, Peng Wenhao, the deputy director of the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Market Supervision, warned that relevant organizers and operators were not allowed to drive up prices and disrupt the market flow in order to profit from “community group purchases.” 

However, in its drive to completely eradicate the pandemic from China, the Chinese Communist Party has placed entire cities into lockdown for weeks on end under its “Zero-COVID” strategy. 

The heavy-handed measures have incurred tremendous losses to the national economy and have revealed a wide array of chaos and dysfunction within its governmental bodies. In addition, the prolonged lockdowns have severely affected the mental health and social life of residents as they are forced to starve or dish out hundreds of dollars in order to obtain fresh food.