Due to the Covid-19 virus, some people have resorted to so-called "panic buying", despite assurances from supermarkets to shop normally as the country will not run out of essential supplies.
There was, however, a time in New Zealand were there was severe rationing of food and other essential items during 1939 to 1948, during and after World War Two.
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Some months before Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, discussions were already taking place between our government and Britain regarding an outbreak of war.
Minister of Finance Walter Nash visited Britain in May 1939 to discuss various matters, including New Zealand's maturing loan of £17,000,000 ($1.75 billion), trade, and in the event of war ‒ the defence of the Pacific region. New Zealand, it was agreed, would also help Britain with food in the event of shortages during the war.
In July, the New Zealand government, in preparation for war, began to stockpile grain, and one of the locations for this was Napier.
Nash announced on September 6, after Germany had invaded Poland, that negotiations had commenced with the United Kingdom to purchase food supplies.
A week later the New Zealand Government would be the sole purchaser of butter, cheese, meat and wool, with Nash undertaking to "use all the nation's resources and provide its kinsmen and friends overseas with necessary food and clothing." And this meant rationing of supplies for New Zealand, and this was anticipated as far back as May.
Five-hundred acres of the Heretaunga Plains were planted in seed for field and garden peas, and the whole crop was to be exported to Britain.
Petrol was quick to be rationed, due to fears that disruption to shipping lanes would block the importation of motor spirits.
Hastings was one of the more vocal protesters in New Zealand about petrol rationing.
There were in 1940, 157 garage and service station employees in Hastings, and at a meeting to discuss the effect petrol rationing was having on their businesses, a resolution was passed that unless the allowance was increased, many employees would be made redundant.
At the start of the war, the limit on petrol was 54 litres per car month, and by 1942 the most that could be bought in a month was just 9 litres.
Food rationing was introduced in New Zealand in April 1942.
To initiate rationing, every man, woman, and child under the age of 16 was supplied with a ration book. Each book had a serial number and had to be signed for. Inside the ration book were several pages of different colours, with each page divided into 26 squares carrying numbers 1 to 26.
New Zealanders, said the government, in relation to the ration book, "will soon become accustomed to regard, say, a pink ticket, number so-and-so, as a passport to a weekly ration of some necessary commodity".
The first item to be rationed was sugar. Registration with a retailer was required to receive supplies of sugar.
A coupon(s) was surrendered to the retailer, who cut one or more coupons out of the ration book when sugar was purchased (or other goods when it was broadened). Once the week's coupons had gone, that was it, until more were issued.
Some businesses later created their own ration books to hold the coupons, such as the one shown belonging to Miss Enid Westerman and supplied by her father's business, Westerman and Co, Hastings.
Shortages occurred in the depths of the war of products, and rubber ware was so hard to get, some innovative boys in Hastings were substituting rubber tires with hose pipe, or even stuffing bags in the outer tyres.
Some men converted their cars to gas to avoid petrol rationing, but many walked or biked around Hastings.
One Hastings grocer, faced with shortages of Australian tinned fruit, held a draw of the names of registered customers who stated they wanted the fruit.
Wattie's in Hastings was classed as an "essential industry" (you may have heard that term recently) and almost all its output was sold to the British Ministry of Food. When the Japanese joined the war, the United States' Joint Processing Board for consumption of armed forces in the Pacific.
By 1940, 90 per cent of our exports were sent to the United Kingdom.
In order to avoid pulling men from military service for farming, a Women's Land Corps was formed at the end of 1941, which was not to the liking of farmers who said they weren't suited for most of the work. They also didn't want to pay them as much as men. These women became known as the "Land Girls".
Clothing was also rationed, and rationing continued in New Zealand until around 1948.
An old station hand from a remote inland farm turned up at Hastings in 1947 to purchase some clothing. After the clothing had been wrapped, he passed over the required purchase money.
He was confused when the shop assistant asked for coupons. The man replied he had never heard of coupons, as he ate in the cookhouse, killed his own meat and bought butter from a farmer. He had not attempted to purchase new clothes in five years.
As mentioned, rationing did not stop here until around 1948, and in Britain the shortages were severe.
Food parcels were sent from New Zealand to friends and relatives in Britain after the war under the "Food for Britain" campaign. Such was the response that in Auckland in July 1946, 60,000 food parcels for shipment were received in one day.
The government was not in favour of this as individual parcels took up more shipping space than bulk food shipments, and by 1948 shipments of food became more co-ordinated.
People were encouraged to purchase products that were in tins: tinned meats, fats, jam, plum pudding, canned cheese, honey and fruit cakes. All the products were then collected and shipped in bulk.
Like today, New Zealand had more than enough food to go around, except during World War II and some years beyond when New Zealanders sacrificed their own food for the benefit of others.
* Michael Fowler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a contract researcher and writer for business and organisational histories.