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Russian officials are urging people not to panic-buy food amid shortage concerns brought on by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, according to reports.
Western sanctions and airspace bans imposed on Russia have caused the country’s economy to tank, sparking fears of food shortages among civilians.
“Russians have absolutely no need to run to the shops and buy up buckwheat, sugar and toilet paper,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday when asked about reports of Russians panic-buying, according to The Moscow Times.
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“The fuss around supplies in food stores is extremely emotional,” he said.
Unverified videos online show Russian grocery shoppers fighting over bags of sugar amid reports of sugar shortages in the country.
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Inflation has risen at its fastest rate in more than two decades, the Times reported, citing data from the Rosstat statistics agency. Russia has banned exports of sugar and other agricultural products until August.
Other Russian officials echoed Peskov, saying sugar shortages have been brought on by panic-buying consumers rather than a lack of available sugar in Russia.
Russia’s Federal Anti-Monopoly Service (FAS) — an anti-monopoly government organization — warned against monopolistic practices in the sugar industry on Thursday, saying it would be inspecting sugar producers in the country to ensure there are no “unjustified” price hikes or shortages, according to Reuters.
“The absence of sugar on shop shelves in several regions is due to a rush in demand, which is being [fueled] by dishonest organisations [sic].” FAS said in a statement reported by Reuters.
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Viktor Evtukhov, deputy industry and trade minister, said Russia is having “no problems with sugar,” and “producers are producing it in sufficient quantities,” according to Reuters. “Given the decision taken to ban exports and allow free imports of this product, we really do not expect any shortages of this good, which is in very high demand from the population today.”
Aside from staples like sugar, Russians are also panic-buying medications like insulin and electronics, the Financial Times reported.
Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to raise pensions and salaries on Wednesday, according to the Financial Times.
Meanwhile, countries across the globe may feel the impacts of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the two nations combined make up 30% of the world’s wheat exports.
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Ukraine also supplies much of the world’s sunflower oil. Those supplies are likely to become much more limited globally due to the invasion. In addition, price hikes stemming from Western sanctions on Russian oil and gas companies will increase food shipping prices.
“As the war heats up, dozens of distant countries are set to feel the burn,” World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley said in a March 11 statement.