OTTAWA -- Grocery sales are surging as Canadians stock up on food during the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the second week of March—when the federal government announced its coronavirus response plan—grocery sales in Canada increased 38 per cent compared to average sales in 2019, according to a new Statistics Canada study.

The study looks at the COVID-19 outbreak’s impact on consumer buying patterns.

It shows Canadians are increasingly buying foods they can store.

Rice purchases are up more than 239 per cent from last year’s average. Pasta sales are up 205 per cent, and canned soup, meat and vegetables are all up more than 150 per cent.

Perishable goods also increased, but those increases were substantially smaller. That suggests consumers are stockpiling against uncertain conditions, StatCan’s report said.

Cleaning products saw even larger surges. Hand sanitizer sales were up a staggering 639 per cent compared to the 2019 average. Masks and gloves (377 per cent), facial tissues (253 per cent) and personal wipes (231 per cent) also saw huge increases.

Sales for those products started creeping up in January, as the first coronavirus cases in North America.

But for toilet paper, sales of which were up 241 per cent, the increase was far more sudden.

“Bathroom tissue sales, which received extensive media coverage, only began to rise significantly in the first week of March shortly after Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu advised Canadians to be prepared with a week’s worth of supplies,” the report says.

That increase happened despite reassurances from government officials and toilet paper producers that the supply was plentiful.

Overall grocery store revenues are 16 per cent higher than those reported leading up to the December holiday season, typically the busiest shopping week of the year.

The data is from the week ending March 14. You can read the full report below.