Why are food prices going up and up?
Food prices have been rising across the globe since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. This is causing increasing hardship for poorer countries, but also for the poorer sections of society in wealthier countries, because - as in Russia and Ukraine, for example - even low-cost staple foods are affected by massive price hikes. Commentators examine the causes.
Coming to the crunch now
In Russia, major sausage producers have announced price increases for the third time this year. For the Echo of Moscow, this is a recipe for long-term turmoil:
“Since the 1990s we've been living through the most sated period in our country's history. Our propaganda is based on the powerful tandem of the fridge and the television. As long as the fridge isn't empty, the TV can lie all it wants. That works as long as you can smother any doubts with vodka and sausage. ... Unfortunately, we make important life decisions not with our heads or even our hearts - but with our stomachs. Freedom of expression is an abstract concept. When there's nothing left to eat, it's very concrete. You can spend as many billions as you like on the army, the police and the national guard - but if people have nothing to eat, you won't get very far with brute force.”
Inflation is the lesser evil for central banks
The West's fiscal policies also play a role, Vedomosti insists:
“Another global factor in the burst of inflation is the developed countries' far-reaching measures to support demand during the pandemic. These were quite effective, but against the backdrop of a slow recovery in production, demand outweighed supply. Higher, if not record, inflation is seen by these countries' financial regulators as a lesser evil than falling demand and growing poverty. ... Neither the Fed nor the ECB have actively done anything to curb the surge in prices, keeping the base rate at zero or just above - notwithstanding the record levels of inflation.”
Low-priced goods becoming more expensive
Prices for basic foodstuffs are spiraling in Ukraine, Strana complains:
“Since Ukrainians' incomes have remained at the same level, many families are now living on porridge. This explains the increased demand for cereals and the resulting price hikes. ... The lion's share of people's diets consists of low-priced food. Producers are taking advantage of this and raising their prices, with the result that cheap products have become more expensive much faster than comparatively expensive ones. Sunflower oil prices have risen by 80 percent within just one year, while butter has only increased by five percent. Pork prices increased by four percent whereas chicken has gone up by almost 40 percent. ... As porridge remains one of the cheapest meals, many families are eating a lot more of it. And the more expensive other products become, the higher the demand for cereals.”
There is no supermarket cartel
Turkey's President Erdoğan has blamed five major supermarket chains for high food prices. Cumhuriyet took a closer look:
“These supermarket chains account for only 30 percent of the retail sector. There are also 400 local supermarket chains and 160,000 traditional shops, which together make up 70 percent of the sector. It is de facto not possible for five chains representing 30 percent of the sector to form a cartel and raise prices. The 70 percent and the online retailers create major competitive pressure. ... If you look at the figures of recent years, you can see that the big chains were only able to make a paltry profit of less than two percent.”