About 53,000 food factories around the country are ramping up production to 100 per cent capacity as Thai people have been on panic buying mode since last weekend amid a surge of confirmed coronavirus cases domestically.
Among the products that consumers are looking to stock up on are rice, canned fish, and instant noodles, along with household items such as cleaning and antiseptic products, and tissues.
Prayoth Benyasut, the Internal Trade Department’s deputy director-general, said after a meeting with 56 consumer product producers this week that there are enough products in stock to last another three months. The production capacity has also been increased from 70 per cent to 100 per cent, he added.
“People are still buying during the week, but not as much as during the last weekend,” he said. “Businesses have told me that they are making sure there will be enough products to cope with the sudden increase of demand and they are putting products on the shelves at a faster pace,” he added.
Visit Limlurcha, vice-chairman of the Thai National Shippers’ Council and president of the Thai Food Processors Association (TFPA) said producers are insisting that products are not out of stock. He also urged people not to panic as Thailand is the 11th largest food exporter in the world.
The domestic market is worth 2 trillion baht per year, while the export market is worth 1 trillion baht per year. There are 53,642 food processing factories in the country, where 43,725 are agricultural product processing plants, 9,102 are food processing plants, and 815 are producing beverages.
Visit said instant noodles makers have assured him that with the current production capacity of 70 per cent, the country is already producing around 10 million packages per day. If they ramp up production to 100 per cent capacity, it will be 15 million packages per day. They also have a stock of raw materials such as flour, which could last another three to nine months.
“Please do not panic about a shortage of food,” he said. “What we are asking is that the roads remain open for raw materials to enter factories and for the delivery of food to the sales points,” he added.
Visit is referring to retailers’ call for the government to ease the limits on trucks entering Bangkok to allow producers to keep supermarket shelves full during the panic buying. Right now, trucks with ten wheels or more are only allowed to enter the capital between 10:00am and 3:00pm. Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak said on Wednesday that the government is considering the proposal.
Listed Kuang Pei San Food Products (POMPUI), the producer of pompui (smiling fish) canned fish, said the company has enough products to meet the increase in demand. They are now ramping up production to 800,000 cans per day, the company’s marketing director Kraiserm Tohtubtiang said.
Somkiat Makcayathorn, honorary president of the Thai Rice Packers Association and president of listed Patum Rice Mill and Granary, the producer of Mah Boonkrong Rice, said the production of rice is still “normal”. He said there is definitely enough rice to go around since the production of rice is more than the demand.
Thailand consumes around 6 million tonnes of rice per year and exports more than that amount. The Thai Rice Exporters Association is expecting to export around 7.5 million tonnes of rice this year.
At Siam Makro (MAKRO), the products that are currently in demand from the panic buying are facemasks, hand sanitizer, instant noodles, canned fish, eggs, cooking oil, and toilet paper. “There is no need to worry, the company has a backstock of at least 15-30 days,” according to Siriporn Dechsingha, chief marketing officer of Siam Makro.
Chatrchai Tuongratanaphan, an adviser to the Thai Retailers Association, insisted that there is no shortage of products at the moment as factories’ production capacity could be ramped up, there are at least 15-30 days of backstock, and packaged rice stock can last for another three months. The roads are still open for smaller delivery cars to deliver 24 hours as well.
“If you see empty shelves, they will be full again by the next day,” he said. “The situation is different from the floods in 2011 when factories and distribution centres were flooded while many streets were out of commission,” he added.