The new strain of coronavirus has killed nearly 500 people and infected more than 24,000 across the globe.
Trần Duy Đông, director of the Domestic Market Department, speaks to Vietnam News Agency about its plans to ensure supplies of essential goods.
What are the ministry’s plans to ensure supplies of essential goods?
In the past few days, demand for medical supplies such as face masks, antiseptic lotion and medical gloves has surged. The Domestic Market Department has coordinated with market management agencies throughout the country to investigate businesses that are stockpiling supplies and inflating prices.
The department has also collaborated with local departments of industry and trade to discuss measures to ensure the domestic production output and to avoid a shortage of goods.
Businesses are committed to increasing production of masks for the market. However, these items' quality must be certified by the Ministry of Health before being distributed. The department has developed a plan and discussed it with the Ministry of Health to increase the supply of medical items.
As for other necessities such as food, we have worked with major distributors such as VinMart, Big C, Saigon Co.op and many producers to prepare supplies.
I think we can be assured of a supply of essential goods, including food. China has closed cross-border markets amid the epidemic outbreak until February 8, so the MoIT is looking for solutions to boost domestic consumption of agricultural products.
However, in the past few days, traders at a handful of markets have increased prices of fruit and vegetables after running short of supplies during the Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday.
The department has worked with production units to prepare goods and regulate supply and demand.
How is the stockpiling system and sales network organised?
Under the direction of the Prime Minister and Ministry of Industry and Trade, the domestic market has prepared for various scenarios, including a full blown epidemic.
We have requested big retailers such as Vinmart, Big C, Saigon Co.op to increase stocks in the first quarter by 30-50 per cent compared to 2019.
Some retailers have provided data, which states stockpiles of essential food products have increased by 30-50 per cent. For example, Vinmart plans to increase its rice supply by 50 per cent, pork and chicken by 30 per cent, beef, seafood and processed foods by about 40 per cent, and fruit, vegetables and cooking oil on similar levels.
The department has also requested wholesale markets to increase supplies.
How is food safety being guaranteed?
Food safety is being strictly monitored at the moment. Market management agencies have intensified their inspections.
The department has also asked them to increase inspections of the transport, circulation and trade of wildlife products or those with a high risk of disease transmission. The law bans such activities, but inspections must be strengthened.
We have also asked suppliers and distributors to tighten control of imported goods to ensure food hygiene and safety as well as origin traceability.
What are your forecasts for 2020?
The recent epidemic will affect the domestic market. First, total sales of goods and services this year may decrease due to impacts on the food and entertainment sectors.
Second, people may move from traditional markets to supermarkets and shopping centres to seek safer sources of food with better quality and traceability to avoid infection.
Third, people will go online to avoid direct contact, therefore decreasing cash payments. Our department has collaborated with the Department of E-commerce and Digital Economy to work with trade centres, distribution systems to support their sales and payment methods. — VNS