Rising food prices make things harder amid Covid woes

By Dat Nguyen   August 8, 2021 | 04:44 pm PT
Rising food prices make things harder amid Covid woes
A vendor sells meat at Nghia Tan market in Cau Giay District, Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Anh Tu.
Surging prices of essential goods are worsening the difficulties for people who have already been hit by job losses and travel restrictions.

The last time Le Quang Hai of Hanoi’s Cau Giay District went to the market, the prices of eggs and most vegetables had doubled. He already could not afford meat.

The price increases were a further financial burden for the 23-year-old delivery worker who has been unemployed for two weeks as his company cut the number of staff on authorities’ orders to limit the number of people commuting.

His only income has been the VND1.5 million ($65) government support, which will soon run out.

"I might have to borrow money from some friends as Hanoi has imposed social distancing for another two weeks. I hope the outbreak will be contained before I run out of money."

In Hanoi’s neighboring province of Hung Yen, Nguyen Hoang Yen, who tends plants in an apartment complex, has seen her work hours reduced by half for a week now due to restrictions on people coming in from outside.

But rising food prices are creating more challenges for her family of three which depends mainly on the 50-year-old to put food on the table.

"We try to keep our meals simple. There is not much we can do but to wait for all of this to be over."

Rising prices of meat, vegetables and groceries are adding to the challenges for low-income workers.

Industry insiders say the closure of wholesale markets and retail outlets due to Covid-19 have pushed prices up in the capital.

In Xuan La Market in Tay Ho District, the price of a kilogram of cabbage and squash have risen by a third to VND15,000 and by 20 percent to VND27,000.

Hanh, a vegetable vendor, said since earlier this week she has been unable to buy from outside of Hanoi due to transport restrictions.

Egg prices remain at around 50 percent higher than before the outbreak.

"Rising demand and limited supply since most eggs are transported to HCMC have caused prices to rise," Nguyen Thi Kim Dung, director of retail chain Co.op Mart Hanoi, said.

The price hikes have placed a strain on both blue- and white-collar workers.

Minh Tu, a graphic designer in Ba Dinh District, has seen his income cut by 30 percent as his company lost contracts.

"I eat more carbohydrate and less protein to reduce my expenses. For the next few weeks there will be no fruits or desserts," the 29-year-old said.

To ensure enough supply and keep prices from rising, the city trade department plans to use bus stations, stadiums and empty plots of land as hubs for food to make up for the closure of wholesale markets.

The city has also set up several mobile shopping sites to reduce crowds at markets and stabilize prices.

Dam Manh Tuan, director of retail outlet Aeon Long Bien, said around eight tons of food would be distributed to four such points in Long Bien District at the same prices as at Aeon stores.

Similar sales points are being set up in downtown districts.

But for Quynh Anh in Hoan Kiem, who has been laid off from her job as an office receptionist, another two weeks of social distancing means prices will likely increase further.

And, for the 25-year-old, finding a new job is almost impossible at this time.

She said: "I’ve cut down spending to a minimum and my savings are almost gone. Things have never been this hard."

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