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Food market drive to extend past lockdown

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The Ministry of Commerce dispatched trucks to the red zones to sell food products and groceries at below-market prices during the lockdown. Yousos Apdoulrashim

Food market drive to extend past lockdown

The Ministry of Commerce will continue its campaign to sell goods at below-market prices in blocked off areas in Phnom Penh, even as the capital and Kandal province's Takmao town emerge from lockdown at the outset of May 6, according to ministry spokesman Pen Sovicheat on May 4.

The remark comes a day after Prime Minister Hun Sen signed Resolution No 61 to end the lockdown, giving the right to the Phnom Penh municipal and Kandal provincial administrations to impose any measures deemed necessary in their jurisdictions to rein in the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The government first placed Phnom Penh and adjacent Takmao town in Kandal province on April 15, in a move to break the chain of Covid-19 transmission from the February 20 community outbreak, which has brought the total number of coronavirus infections to more than 14,000.

Ministry spokesman Sovicheat told The Post that the campaign will remain active to help those who cannot travel outside their areas, “in the spirit of Resolution 54, until further notice”.

Since the ministry rolled out mobile grocery units on April 15 and began setting up stalls to sell food supplies in red zones on April 19, he said, the campaign has effectively contributed to solving many of the difficulties related to the food needs facing the people living in the blocked-off areas.

"Overall, we can highly appreciate the successful implementation of this operation, as it has effectively contributed to the implementation of the Royal Government's strategy to prevent the spread of the pandemic, especially during the lockdown of Phnom Penh and Takmao town," he said.

He added that private sector involvement in the campaign has made work easier and more efficient, increasing the number of items in stock such as fresh meats, fish, vegetables and other essentials in addition to the strategic food items that the ministry sells.

Suo Vireak, director-general of Virak Buntham Express Tour & Travel, which has deployed 64 mobile grocery units to people in restricted areas, said the company is keen to remain on the campaign if authorities so request.

The units sold products such as vegetables, fish and meats at reasonable prices, he said, adding that the company's participation had made things easier for those in cordoned-off areas.

"So far, we haven't gotten word from the authorities if they'll ask us to continue or not," Vireak said.

The ministry currently has 11 stalls – split up into 26 booths – set up in red zones and a number of mobile grocery units in yellow ones, according to Sovicheat.

From April 21 to May 2, he said, the ministry sold 4,578 50kg sacks of milled rice, 14,056 boxes of instant noodles, 7348 packs of canned fish, 3,427 cases of fish sauce, 4,244 cases of soy sauce, 371 packs of bottled drinking water, as well as some other products.

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