Published On: Sun, Dec 7th, 2014

‘Buckwheat Panic’ Gripping Russian Consumers

buckwheat roasted kasha

Buckwheat is the ultimate comfort food for Russians, AFP reports, and as Western economic sanctions persist, the grain is disappearing from the shelves in a hoarding craze that’s being dubbed the “buckwheat panic.”

The devastating combination of falling oil prices and sanctions, Russia is seeing a disastrous depreciation of the ruble and catastrophic inflation. Everything is getting more expensive by the day, including chicken, meat and cheese, and now buckwheat.

Buckwheat “is not just a food, it is a national idea, ” Russia’s leading business daily, AFP cited a Vedomosti editorial.

Buckwheat is a traditional Russian staple, it was there before potatoes.

Due to a drought, Russia’s buckwheat harvest fell this year to just under 600, 000 tons, compared with the normal 700, 000 tons, according to AFP.

“In Moscow, people see a television news report about a buckwheat crisis in Penza”—a city 350 miles away—and “in just four days they buy up buckwheat stocks that would normally be enough for two months, ” the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily wrote.

One supermarket chain in Saint Petersburg imposed a five-pack limit for buckwheat purchases.

Despite the fact that buckwheat is a domestic product, not affected by sanctions or the falling ruble, the price of a packet of buckwheat rose from around 30 rubles to 50 rubles (93 cents) in Moscow—double that in other areas.

“People store up on buckwheat—which can be kept for a long time—because they do not know what to expect from the sanctions, ” a trader at a Saint Petersburg food market told AFP.

So far, prices in Russia have gone up 30 to 40 percent for basic foods such as eggs, pork, chicken, frozen fish and sausage.

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