Shanghai launches group purchases to stay fed during COVID lockdown

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An Ele.me delivery man hands a bag to a resident behind barriers sealing off an area, ahead of the second stage of a two-stage lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Shanghai, China , March 31, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

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SHANGHAI, April 8 (Reuters) – When Shanghai first entered a full COVID-19 lockdown last week, Ping Mai didn’t expect it to become the unofficial broker for its resort. dwelling for its meat supply.

With her and her neighbors stuck at home and struggling to buy food amid lockdown restrictions that have closed shops and drastically reduced the number of couriers, she is one of millions of people trying to figure out how to buy produce daily costs.

A popular solution has been community group buying, which sees residents at the same address band together to buy groceries or meals in bulk from vendors or restaurants, placing single orders that can total thousands of dollars. .

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Restaurants such as Yum China’s Pizza Hut (9987.HK) and hot pot chain Haidilao (6862.HK), which had to close their food outlets, jumped on the bandwagon. The former had at one point offered groups of 10 buyers 120 steaks for 2,900 yuan ($456). The latter sold packages of eggs, mushrooms and root vegetables for 58 yuan with a minimum order of 30 sets.

The deals spread quickly on social media, and once enough buyers have signed up and made payment, sellers ship the order to the resort usually a few days later, and building security or volunteers will drop off then every door-to-door order. Sometimes locals organize couriers themselves.

Mai told Reuters how she took it upon herself to stock up on meat and called several suppliers to learn they had stopped taking orders.

When one of them finally said he had stock but had a minimum order of 30 sets priced at 200 yuan each, he sent her on a rush to chat groups to find 29 other interested parties.

She continues to seek other offers for her neighbors, even as she juggles her day job.

“A lot of people are busy with work and a lot of people in the building are elderly. I have time, so I can help out,” she said.

However, many residents fear that the government may end the practice, especially as it attempts to eradicate the transmission of the virus.

Shanghai on Friday announced a record 21,000 new cases and a third consecutive day of COVID testing as the lockdown of its 26 million people showed no signs of easing, while other Chinese cities tightened restrictions – even in places without recent infections. Read more

Some Shangahi residents said their neighborhood committees sent messages this week saying they were no longer allowed to shop in bulk, citing contagion risks and labor issues. At a housing complex, some residents refused a truck full of orders placed by their neighbors, citing a virus risk.

On Friday, an official anti-rumour WeChat account, which is backed by China’s internet watchdog, denied that the city government was planning to ban group buying.

Yet Loly Chen, a 26-year-old designer, said such rumors fuel anxiety for people like her, due to uncertainty about how long Shanghai’s lockdown will last, despite her making a living off of it. instant noodles for now.

“Even though I still have enough food at the moment, I still worry about running out.”

($1 = 6.3625 Chinese yuan renminbi)

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Reporting by Josh Horwitz; Editing by Brenda Goh and Kim Coghill

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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