Pandemic’s second wave brings buckwheat rush back in Russia

Sugar, oil, cereal crops, macaroni and other staples have suddenly gone up in price in the country

Pandemic’s second wave brings buckwheat rush back in Russia

As it often happens during any crisis, with the worsening coronavirus state of affairs, Russians have begun to stocking up on food again. The famous winter rush for buckwheat and other staples is back, which has logically led to a rise in prices for these commodities. Buckwheat’s price skyrocketed by 29% in October alone, Realnoe Vremya’s analytic service calculated. Sugar, oil, bread and pasta have also become suddenly expensive. However, high demand doesn’t always explain all cases, experts say. Moreover, this isn’t the end, according to them, prices for other products can also rise in the short term.

Some products increased by 76%

October was marked for a significant rise in prices for staples. Realnoe Vremya has been tracking prices in stores of four Kazan chains — Bakhetle, Edelweiss, Pyatorochka and Magnit — for more than five years already.

Price for 19 out of 43 products from the food basket increased at once in October, moreover, some grew by 76%. Experts say that the weaker ruble, the harvest, output and the high demand amid self-isolation fixed prices for foodstuffs.

“A shift of demand from expensive products to cheaper ones will keep influencing the price dynamics in the future, everything will also depend on available discounts (offers) in chain stores. All this is happening because of the ongoing reduction in the population’s purchasing power. The price for foodstuffs will keep rising in the future,” thinks press secretary of the Gorbatov Federal Scientific Centre for Food Systems Dmitry Gordeyev.

Moreover, among the reason for the growth of prices, the scientific centre notes additional costs on disinfection of commercial areas, a commodity, transport, provision of staff with protective equipment, which influences the end price of a good.

Grocery: high demand and consequences of COVID-19

Prices for grocery products are causing some concern. Three types of products that are vitally important for the population, especially the low-income class, at once are in the top 5 goods that have become expensive.

The rise in price for buckwheat is painful enough. It has increased by 29% in a month, from 159 to 205 rubles per kilogramme. Moreover, the seasonal factor hardly explains the situation: it cost cheaper last October than this September — 149 rubles per kilogramme. Last September, it was 121 rubles per kilogramme. It seems that high demand for this product during any crisis plays a role here — if things are bad, Russians tend to stock up on this crop for some reason. This is easily proved by facts: during the first spring COVID-19 wave, buckwheat already showed an anti-record, its price in April reached 214 rubles (a year earlier, it cost just 121 rubles).

It seems that buckwheat can already be used as a certain indicator of calmness in society. The scientific centre says that wholesale prices rose in October 2020, as this culture is always the first crop affected by negative economic processes in our country. Moreover, the rush created in March and October 2020 is the point.

The situation with macaroni and tea is the same in grocery, though it isn’t so illustrative. Photo:

The situation with sugar is similar: it rose by 22% in a month, while compared to last October, it did 1,2 times. Now it can be bought for 46 rubles per kilogramme, a year ago it cost 30 rubles. We should note that sugar hasn’t topped such a price this year — the previous record was set in January 2019 — then it cost 45 rubles per kilogramme, while the higher price was only in September 2018. However, according to Dmitry Gordeyev, not the high demand is the reason but the fact that sugar beet harvest began to be gathered later, and as a consequence, its processing was also late. As a result of this, the price has increased.

The situation with macaroni and tea is the same in grocery, though it isn’t so illustrative. They have become about 10% more expensive in a month and a year — to 118 and 970 rubles per kilogramme. However, the reasons for the growth of prices for these products are different. In the case of macaroni, feedstock became costlier, while tea has become expensive not only in Russia but everywhere — because of a reduction in the amount of collection because of coronavirus.

Moreover, chickpea and rice became more expensive, not so significantly during the month — by about 2%. But when compared year on year, we can see chickpea’s price has increased by 12%, while rice has by 20%. This applies to flour, vegetable oil and salt. They have increased by 13%, 14% and 42% over the year.

Eggs also have gone up in price in a month. It September a carton of ten eggs was sold for 47 rubles, now the price is 55 rubles.

Beef has become expensive by 5% against last October. However, pork has cheapened by 7%. Photo: Maksim Platonov

Meat will become expensive, while milk is almost stable

There aren’t shocks in milk and meat categories besides some exceptions. Chicken is approximately at the same level it was a month ago. Beef has become expensive by 5% against last October. However, pork has cheapened by 7%. But meat can become more expensive soon because of a rise in price for fodder.

The situation with milk and the dairy is more unpleasant. Sour cream price has increased by more than 10% (a year ago, it cost 161 rubles, in September it was 173 rubles, now the price is 180 rubles). Cheese and butter have become 8-9% more expensive, milk — by 7%, cottage cheese — by 2%.

Leaders in the cheapest prices for goods have changed several times among chain stores during this time (suppliers have changed, stores have changed their formats and proprietors have changed), but the distribution in general has been the same.

Nowadays the average food basket calculated according to a method of the Russian Federal Statistics Service (we consider a certain number of the cheapest products included to the food basket) costs 5,875 rubles. It is 1,7% more expensive than a month earlier (it was 5,774 rubles) and 5% costlier than last late October.

Edelweiss chain offers the lowest price for the food basket, but it is also the leader of the price growth. Photo: Roman Khasayev

Pyatorochka is close to appreciating Edelweiss

Edelweiss chain offers the lowest price for the food basket, but it is also the leader of the price growth. Now the monthly set of products costs 5,858 rubles here, which is by 4,6% more than a month earlier. The year-on-year dynamics are more illustrative: the products could be bought for 4,965 rubles last October, which is 12% cheaper than now.

The basket in Pyatorochka is more expensive by 20 rubles than in Edelweiss. The abundance of marketing offers has an impact — a lot of categories of products have at least one offer, which allows making up the minimum set for a reasonable price.

Magnit, which recently changed its owner, keeps going up in price — not as much as Edelweiss, but its edge is smaller. Now the basket is 130 rubles more expensive here than in Pyatorochka and 150 rubles more than in Edelweiss — 5,733 rubles. Moreover, the basket has been 1,7% more expensive, or about by 100 rubles, over the year the growth has been 6%, or 330 rubles.

Products in Bakhetle keep appreciating faster than in Magnit but it doesn’t reach the pace of Edelweiss. The basket costs 6,571 rubles here now, almost a thousand rubles more expensive than in Edelweiss. Moreover, the price has increased by 2,3% in a month (about 150 rubles) and by 8% in a year (about 500 rubles). Some products in the food basket, in contrast, have cheapened: it is 24 types, the most noticeable reduction in price is up to 17,6%.

Talking about further growth of prices, Dmitry Gordeyev from the scientific centre notes that prices for macaroni will grow in the future because its price includes a high share of wheat whose price is rising. Moreover, according to him, the growth of prices for crops that are used as fodder for livestock and poultry will lead to a higher price for meat.

Fruits and vegetables: expensive potato and cheap tomato

First of all, let’s note a higher price for some types of vegetables and fruits. Pepper is the overall record holder. It isn’t the most popular vegetable but at the same time it is one of the most permanent “participants” in the top of price change. Its price has increased by 75% in a month, from 110 to 194 rubles. But the reason is the season, like during the previous years. For instance, a year ago, it was another 3% more expensive, and even in 2015, it was more expensive — 212 rubles.

Cucumbers also come from this category. Their price surge has been notable in a month — by 8,4%. Now cucumbers cost around 65 rubles a kilogramme. But their price was higher a year ago — 78 rubles.

However, some fruits have become more expensive not only against September but also last October. For instance, oranges have increased by 11,3% in a month, but their year-on-year hike is 17%. Now they cost 132 rubles per kilogramme, though the “standard” autumn price is about 115 rubles. The story is similar in apples — now they can be bought for 67 rubles, a month ago they cost 62 rubles, a year ago — 60 rubles.

Beetroot and cabbage are among the most cheapened vegetables: by 16% and 10% compared to September and 13% and 19% compared to last October. We will note tomatoes among more expensive vegetables — now they are sold for 89 rubles, a month ago they were 95 rubles, a year ago their price totalled 113 rubles. Carrots, pears and potatoes have still become expensive over the year, though they have cheapened in a month.

Pepper is the overall record holder. Its price has increased by 75% in a month, from 110 to 194 rubles. Photo: Maksim Platonov

Specialists explain that the harvest is worse in the market of vegetables and fruits compared to the last year, which entails a ramp-up in prices.

“First of all, this refers to potatoes and apples. Our country had to shift to imports of these foodstuffs. We usually note a higher price for vegetables and fruits in October because open soil vegetable supply collected in Russia ends, they are replaced by greenhouse-grown and imported products,” the Gorbatov Federal Scientific Centre for Food Systems explains.

By Maksim Matveyev, Realnoe Vremya’s analytic staff