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The first cargo flight chartered by the Lulu Group to bring in fresh produce arrives in the UAE on Tuesday night Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: UAE supermarkets have assured residents of "ample" food supplies from India, a day after that country announced a 21-day lockdown over the COVID-19 outbreak, even as the first batch of four cargo flights, chartered by the Lulu Group, began to arrive with fresh produce on Tuesday night.

V. Nandakumar, chief communications officer at Lulu Group, told Gulf News on Wednesday, “We have chartered four cargo flights from India to bring in fruits, vegetables and perishables to ensure that our shelves and warehouses are well-stocked in the UAE and the market remains stable in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Our goal is to ensure sustained product availability.”

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The first batch of chartered flights has brought in fruits, vegetables and other perishables Image Credit: Supplied

Of the four flights, two are from Kochi and one each from Thiruvananthapuram and Delhi.

“The Delhi flight arrived last night and one flight from Kochi came in this afternoon. The other two flights are due later today,” said Nandakumar.

As of now, Lulu is the only hypermarket which is chartering such cargo flights to the UAE, a week after it undertook a similar initiative in Kuwait.

Nandakumar said the chartered flights would now ply on a daily basis owing to the suspension of commercial aircrafts in the UAE, a measure taken to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Asked if the 21-day lockdown announced in India would affect supplies in the coming days, he said, “As of now, special passes have been issued for export-import activities, including movement of products. We don’t see an issue.”

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The public have been urged not to resort to panic buying Image Credit: Supplied

He also said that the Lulu Group would keep the price levels of the products coming in at the same level “in this hour of crisis”.

No need for panic-buying

At the Al Maya supermarket chain, Kamal Vachani, Group Director, said, “Supplies from India are fine as of now. The Essential Commodities Act in India provides for the free movement of rice, wheat, sugar and other essential commodities. We are in touch with our suppliers to see how things will pan out during the lockdown. We are making all efforts to ensure that we have enough supplies for the coming days.”

Vachani said Al Maya is also in touch with local farmers to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.

He urged residents not to resort to panic-buying or hoarding.

“There is no need to panic-buy. There are enough stocks for everyone and they will be replenished from time to time.”

Robust pipeline

Meanwhile, a statement from the office of Rajiv Warrier, CEO, Choithrams, said, “We are continuously evaluating the situation, we have a robust pipeline and are always prepared with fall back options. Our balanced approach to local and international supply chain enables us to activate our full strength of capabilities, from procurement to inventory management. Currently we have sufficient stocks to manage the requirements of our customers and we will be able to maintain the same going forward as well.”

It said, “Choithrams has served UAE for more than 45 years and we are committed to working closely with the relevant authorities, leveraging our strong relations with the supply-chain network to bring uninterrupted service to our customers.”

On the prices, it said, “Our approach to business pivots on the ‘Full of Goodness’ value we bring to our customers. This goes beyond products and services, it is about the trust we have earned over the past 46 years of operation in the UAE. We are committed to managing the prices and preventing any escalation and are always compliant with the pricing requirements of the local authorities. But we cannot achieve this alone and request our customers to not indulge in stockpiling. There is enough for everyone as long as we buy what we need.”

It said, “Prices rise during seasons of high demand, but we haven’t seen any irregular spike yet. We have managed to optimise our inventory to keep price movements within the regular range. Price is connected to demand and supply and we want to reassure our customers that there is no need to stock up. We ensure stringent sanitisation protocols are implemented within our fleet, delivery and customer facing teams instore and online.”