When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Pasta In Italy. Rice In China. Guns In U.S.: A Hoarding World Tour

People around the world have been rushing out to buy 'essential' products, a concept that varies from culture to culture.

A shop assistant in Hong Kong, China, moves freshly supplied rice in a supermarket.
A shop assistant in Hong Kong, China, moves freshly supplied rice in a supermarket.

One of the more striking outward signs of these troubled times are the ravaged grocery store shelves. Across the world, one of the first reactions people had to the quickly spreading pandemic was to make a rush on basic necessities. Even more troubling, however, are empty warehouses, as anxious demand combines with interrupted supply chains. But just as every country differs in how it tries to control the coronavirus, there are also nuances, from place to place, when it comes to hoarding supplies.

RICE RICE BABY: Fears of a looming food shortage during the coronavirus crisis spurred China — the world's largest grain importer — to make a serious run on rice. In March alone, the country purchased some 50 million metric tons of it, reports Radio Free Asia. But this is not necessarily national policy orchestrated by Beijing, says Fengrui Niu, the former director of the Urban Development and Environment Research Center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Many imports are from individual businesses "profiting from the raging epidemic to hoard food in order to cash in huge profits," he told the U.S.-funded news outlet.

PASTA PANIC: The Italian staple of choice likewise showed a major boost in the month of March, a 59% increase as one in three families bought pasta supplies every 72 hours, reports Agrifood Today. For those old enough to remember, the buying frenzy may spark memories from 1974, when government price controls caused a nation-wide pasta scarcity. Mamma mia!

BUYING UP BOOZE: Down under, in Australia, it's been bottoms up. Data compiled by the Commonwealth Bank suggest that Ozzies have turned from stockpiling toilet paper to hoarding alcohol, the Sydney Morning Heraldreports. As pubs, clubs and restaurants closed down the last week of March, spending on alcohol was 86% higher compared to the same period last year, leading the government to impose limits on alcohol purchases. Now, people can only buy up to two cases of 24 beers or a case of 12 bottles of wine — or both.


Cars line up at a drive-up food distribution center in a parking lot in Palm Beach, Florida, United States.— Photo: Gregg Lovett

COLD HARD CASH: Rather than food, Germans appear to be hoarding the money used to buy it, as the country has experienced an unprecedented level of ATM withdrawals. Cash was already the most popular means of payment before the crisis, but was expected to shrink as supermarkets encourage card payments to lower infection risk. According to the Bundesbank, there is no economic or social explanation for hoarding money, as the cash supply is ensured even in times of crisis.

WIPES AND WEAPONS: People can be forgiven in this period of such uncertainty for wanting to feel safe and secure. And for many Americans, that apparently means having an ample supply of... toilet paper. Lots and lots of it. So much, in fact, that stores are facing drastic supply shortages, both online and off. There's also been a rush on (what else?) guns. In March alone, the FBI reported 3.7 million gun-purchase background checks, not only a 41% increase from the month before, but also the largest number of background checks conducted in a single month ever. Gun and ammunition dealers are also facing a shortage of supplies.

JAVA JITTERS: The whole world apparently can't imagine starting its day without that morning coffee. "Panic buying and stockpiling" has led to higher demand in some countries, according to the International Coffee Organization (ICO), and prices have surged as a result. In the U.S. alone, weekly sales of coffee increased as much as 73% in March. But the underlying fear behind this compulsive consumerism may not be so unfounded, as the current pandemic is leading to supply disruptions due to lockdowns in coffee producing countries. In Colombia, for example, the usual coffee harvest is in April, yet the country is set to be under a nationwide lockdown until April 27.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest