04/08/2021, 13.18
RUSSIA
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Moscow: Rising prices mean rationed meat and expired food

by Vladimir Rozanskij

The pandemic, the rise in prices, the decline in average income reduce consumption. Over 100 cases of children poisoned in schools: industrial oil is used cooking. The devaluation of the rouble linked to the escalation of the crisis in the Donbass. A "total crisis of the Russian economy" is possible.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Beef consumption fell by 3.4% in 2020, to less than two million tons, the lowest level in the last 10 years, according to Rosselkhozbank Sectoral Analysis Center in a report on the average consumption of the Russian population, published on 6 April.

The experts believe the main causes of the reduction are the limitations due to the pandemic, with the closure of restaurants and the decline in average income. Russian beef, on the other hand, underwent a huge increase in exports, by over 103% to 20,000 tons, half of which were sent to China.

Several times President Vladimir Putin has insisted on state measures to contain prices. But in Russian shops and supermarkets, meat continues to increase in price along with many other foodstuffs. In March, there were over 100 cases of child poisoning in Russian schools. The reason: solidified industrial oil (Solidol) was being used in the preparation of meals instead of cooking oil. Although there have been several arrests, it is difficult to control the quality of school food, given the shortage of affordable products.

Yesterday Prime Minister Mikhail Mišustin allocated another 9 billion in subsidies to calm the prices of meat, poultry, eggs, gasoline and building materials; in recent months he has intervened on oil and sugar.

These are the products most in demand and which are being rationed in many areas. The problem of prices has become the dominant issue in the activity of the government and the presidential administration. Putin himself scolded the minister for economic development, Maksim Rešetnikov, on live TV, because "it is not acceptable that people have to ration food because they cannot afford even basic necessities".

Central and local governments are in a frenzy to find solutions, with relentless monitoring and reporting initiatives, and repeated price freezing directives, which give results at most for a couple of days. The search for "small victories" in the price battle nonetheless serves to support the electoral campaign in the coming months at the local level and for the national parliament.

The devaluation of the ruble also engages in the consumer crisis, linked not only to negative market fluctuations, but also to the threats of new armed conflicts in which Russia could be involved in the short term. A sharp drop in the value of the national currency occurred yesterday 7 April, immediately after the statements of the defense minister, Sergej Shojgu, who announced "the beginning of a total test of the military capabilities of the Russian army". A few minutes later, the dollar rose from 70 to 77 rubles, and the euro from 85 to 91.

The fear of an escalation of the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation in the Donbass upset Russian financial markets, which also fear the further sanctions against the Russian sovereign debt. In March alone, foreign investors withdrew $ 1.6 billion in federal credit bonds, a record high for the past few years.

As Raiffesenbank analyst Stanislav Muratov observed, "the weakness of the ruble is a direct reflection of geopolitics." Another mathematical-financial expert on the Boole formula (QBF), Oleg Bogdanov, warned: "The worsening of the situation in Ukraine could trigger American financial sanctions, which would lead to the progressive and unstoppable devaluation of the ruble, and to the crisis total of the Russian economy ".

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