With reports of increasing cases of COVID-19 in Afghanistan, and Pakistan's closing of roadways from Afghanistan and Iran, the price of food and other supplies has doubled in Kabul markets over the past 24 hours, causing hundreds of residents to stockpile emergency food and supplies.
The Ministry of Interior acted immediately by sending a statement to businesspeople saying not to hoard goods (to sell at a higher price later), warning them that it was a crime and that perpetrators will be punished.
But prices had already skyrocketed.
In the last 24 hours, a 49kg bag of flour doubled from Afs900 ($11) to Afs1,800 ($22) on Monday morning, and was even going for Afs2,500 (32) in some parts of the city.
This created panic among Kabul residents who in some areas stood in line to buy supplies for at least the next three months.
“If there is a government there should be control of the market,” said Zabihullah, a shopkeeper in Kabul. “I asked the price--it was Afs1,800 for one bag of flour-- and now (in the afternoon) they say they don’t have it.”
“I asked the shopkeeper--he said they do not have flour--but he did have it in his shop. The price is increasing rapidly,” said Saif-Ur-Rahman, a Kabul resident.
The prices of other foods, including rice and ghee, also increased by 50%, according to Kabul residents.
“People should be patient. The imports are on their way. People should not panic,” said Sayed Kamal Farid Sapai, the head of the commodities sellers union in Kabul.
Pakistan and some other countries, including Uzbekistan, cut supply lines with Afghanistan, but according to the Chamber of Commerce and Investment, the import of supplies--including flour--has not been affected by this restriction.
Afghanistan imports its flour mostly from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan.
“The Turkmenistan border is open normally… There is no problem. The trucks are coming and are carrying commodities. The Uzbekistan border is also open,” said Yunus Mohmand, deputy head of the chamber.