The curious case of sold-out Gardenia breads

We should approach the govt’s decision, in this case the CMCO, with maturity and cooler heads


WE HAVE been here before. In fact, we have been through worse with the “original” Movement Control Order (MCO).

At the time, for a few months, we were not even allowed to leave our homes to go to work, only the heads of families could go out for grocery runs, almost all economic sectors were at a standstill, major cities seemed like ghost towns and dine-ins were a definite no-no. So, back then, freaking out was an acceptable reaction.

When Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced on Oct 12 that Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya would be put under the Conditional MCO (CMCO) effective yesterday, he had explicitly mentioned that all economic sectors would remain open albeit with some tighter standard operating procedures (SOPs), for example, shorter business hours.

However, about an hour after the announcement was made, long queues were seen outside supermarkets. Although it was not as much of a havoc as pre-MCO, panic buying was back. And as much as we had made fun of how Gardenia breads were the most sought-after item in Malaysia during the MCO — surprise, surprise — the Gardenia shelves were wiped clean.

At Mont Kiara’s Village Grocer and 7Eleven, even the least popular Bran & WheatGerm variety was snatched. Facebook user Lisa Santa Maria shared a picture of an empty bread shelf at Ben’s Independent Grocer in IPC Shopping Centre.

“Limited stock of chicken and the bread shelf is empty,” she said.

Makes you wonder, is there a significant increase in one’s bread consumption when movements are restricted?

In a community Facebook page, pictures of a long line outside two Jaya Grocer outlets received many criticisms from fellow netizens.

“Why? This is unnecessary. Even during MCO, shops are open and we are allowed to shop,” one commented.

“No need to expose yourself to higher risks of infection. We can still go out as usual with a maximum of two people,” said another, adding that with many shopping malls already recording cases of Covid-19, she hoped it would not happen at her neighbourhood grocer with all the panic shopping that took place.

“Come on, we have been battling this for five months. It is not something new. Sorry, but I have no remorse for hoarders and these people. All they do is create panic and chaos.”

This last comment reminds this writer of a picture that went viral during MCO, of several unopened loaves of Gardenia breads discarded among a pile of rubbish. When one buys too much and could not consume everything before they expire, food wastage occurs.

When the “Support Your Local Small Businesses” movement emerged, many of these panic buyers, after having stocked up their pantries to the brim, then jumped on the food delivery services craze.

They ended up throwing away the rotten uneaten foods or giving away almost expired food items to their friends. This happened while thousands of less fortunate Malaysians went hungry.

Even after Ismail Sabri had given out more details of the current CMCO on Tuesday — which included that eateries, sundry shops and grocery stores can open from 6am to 10pm daily, markets can open at various hours, and that dine-ins are allowed for a maximum of two diners per table — there were still long lines at supermarket check-out counters.

These last-minute panic shoppers used their lunch breaks to fill their trolleys with, among others, milk, instant noodles, sugar, flour and of course, bread — but of other brands since the early birds had already snatched all the Gardenia breads.

More saddening was that this happened among dwellers of high-end areas, who have better access to updates of the current developments of the pandemic and movement restrictions. Their actions, if made viral on social media, can create fear and panic among the less informed.

As mentioned above, and many times before, this is nothing new. Malaysia and the rest of the world have been in this for months.

We should approach the government’s decision, in this case the CMCO, with maturity and cooler heads.

Farezza Hanum Rashid is the assistant news editor at The Malaysian Reserve.