Forum: Hold food rationing drills to prepare people for real crises

After the recent public hoarding of food and other daily necessities upon the coronavirus outbreak response level turning to code orange, it is assuring to know that the Government always has a ready stockpile of food and other essential items to tide us over any emergency or crisis.

It may be less of a challenge to maintain the said stockpile in normal times.

I envisage that the real challenge is in the equitable allocation of the food and items when stocks run low during a prolonged crisis.

It would be necessary to meet each household's needs - based on its profile, such as number of members and their ages and gender - to prevent hoarding or even looting.

I remember taking part in a food rationing exercise decades ago. Food ration coupons were issued to households at distribution centres set up in schools island wide over a weekend.

Policemen were stationed at these centres to ensure the orderly distribution of coupons, injecting a sense of reality during the exercise.

To give people an incentive to participate, the public was allowed to then use the coupons to purchase food items like canned sardines, canned curry chicken and rice at a discount at participating supermarket chains.

Unfortunately, such drills have long since been discontinued.

It may be timely to reintroduce such an exercise when the coronavirus crisis is over. It would serve to train the current batch of civil servants in organising and conducting one.

At the same time, the public could be educated on the Government's plan for food distribution during a prolonged crisis, so that they would not hoard unnecessarily.

The exercise could be held every two to three years, with household profiles kept up to date for it to be effective during a real crisis.

Ng Chee Kheon

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