“The frenzied demand in the Russian food market has already subsided,” Vladimir Putin said the other day.
The Russian president made this announcement after the Russian and foreign media were filled with images of mostly elderly shoppers grabbing up packages of sugar.
To be fair, in this case, he wasn’t lying. You don’t see any lines for sugar these days. But how did prosperity descend on our country so suddenly?
The answer is simple. People were buying up sugar and other products while they were cheap. And now the situation has changed: Prices for that same sugar rose by 30-40%. Even the pro-government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta had to admit it.
So frenzied demand smoothly morphed into an inability of the majority of the population to stock up on food or even buy the necessities.
It’s worth remembering that according to Rosstat, the Russian statistical agency, before the war there were about 20 million poor people in the country. In reality, one in four Russian citizens is scrimping to make ends meet.
FinExpertiza, a financial consulting agency, once used an internationally accepted methodology to calculate income levels. Their experts found that 24.6 % of the Russian population, or 36 million people, had an income below 60% of the median income. The median income last year was 27,000 rubles (about $300) per month. That means that a quarter of the population lives on the brink of poverty with an income of 16,000 rubles — about $150 — a month.
At the same time price increases are — in the euphemistic words of patriotic Russians — “unparalleled.” If it was just the price of sugar, that would be one thing. But in the city of Kurgan, for example, the price of onions has gone up 160%. Compared with March of last year, in Russia, as whole cabbage prices have increased the most among the major essential foodstuffs: they have risen 209.45% — more than threefold. The price of sugar went up by half (56%). Buckwheat is up 37.7%, flour —20.61%, pasta — 21.22%, and almost all fruits and vegetables — onions, tomatoes, carrots and potatoes — went up by more than 20%. Meat and poultry — beef, lamb, pork and chicken — rose in price by 12-19%.