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It started with cooking oil, whose sales are still limited in supermarkets. It has now spread to flour, although for now only in wholesale. The rise in food prices, on the heels of the war in Ukraine, is generating a phenomenon that distribution guarantees is not justified: hoarding. It was therefore necessary to take measures, and to put brakes.
On all surfaces consulted by the Observer, it was possible to confirm that the sale of cooking oil is still limited to a certain amount by customers. On Continente and Pingo Doce, it is possible to purchase a maximum of six liters per customer, a measure justified by the “high demand”. At Auchan, the limit is lowered to three liters per consumer. The brake extends to wholesalers. At Recheio, owned by the Jerónimo Martins group, it is possible to buy 75 liters of each reference daily. Between 2018 and 2020, according to an analysis of the reflection tank Bruegel, Ukraine was responsible for 41% of world sunflower oil exports, and Russia for 16%.
Flour, as advanced this Friday by Jornal de Notícias, is limited to five daily units per customer at Makro.
According to industry sources heard by the Observer, it is not a question of rationing due to lack of product, but of ensuring that, given the high demand – with consumers fearing further increases and some shortages -, it is possible to replenish stocks in a timely manner.
In Spain, where inflation reached 9.8% in March, the highest value since 1985, there has been a new law since this Thursday that allows supermarkets to limit the sales quantities of some products. A measure justified only in “extraordinary and force majeure” circumstances. The ban on limiting the quantity of products that can be purchased by each buyer was provided for in Spanish law.
In the neighboring country, the situation was exacerbated by the truck drivers’ strike, which delayed supplies to large supermarkets, and generated a real rush to supermarkets. Demand for milk, for example, soared almost 50% in the week of March 14 to 20 compared to the same period last year, reports El País.
In Portugal, the legislation in force regarding anti-economic offenses and against public health dictates that “the refusal to sell is considered justified” only in the case of “satisfaction of the domestic supply needs of the producer or trader”gives “satisfaction of the normal requirements of the agricultural, commercial or industrial holding, during the period necessary for the renewal of stocks“Yea”satisfaction of previously assumed commitments”.
The food crisis came to be seen as a priority for the Government, since the consequences of the war in Ukraine began to be palpable. In the Government Program, published this Friday, the “most recent events” justified the inclusion of food security and strategic autonomy as a priority for the legislature.
“The evolution of the world situation since the beginning of the pandemic, and in particular the most recent events, reinforce the centrality” of the topic in the concerns of the Executive, reads the script of the new Government of António Costa.
In this sense, “ensuring strategic food autonomy is a political priority that will involve acting on a global level, positioning in the global market and articulating with our partners in the European Union, with a scope that includes all food production, and that it also reinforces the importance of short supply circuits and articulates and incorporates the ‘One Health’ concept”, says the document.
How the War Altered Costa’s Plans for the Government Program
The war between Russia and Ukraine has put additional pressure on a sector that was still suffering from the pangs of the pandemic. In 2021, Russia accounted for 18% of world barley exports and 12% of wheat sales. Ukraine provided 14% of global barley exports and 10% of wheat exports. With the “granaries” of the world at war, Europe woke up to the need to work towards strengthening its strategic food autonomy, at a time when the rise in prices is already clearly visible in inflation and, above all, in the shopping basket of consumers. Europeans.
The National Institute of Statistics (INE) revealed this week that the rate of change in the consumer price index (CPI) was 5.3% in March, year-on-year. Since June 1994, the value of inflation has not been so high. Already this Friday, the quick estimate released by Eurostat reveals an acceleration of inflation in the euro zone to 7.5% in March, a value never seen in the monetary union. The 45% increase in energy prices was the main springboard for the indicator. The item that includes food prices increased by 5% in the same month, compared to 4.2% in February. In Portugal, the harmonized annual inflation rate (HICP) calculated by Eurostat stood at 5.5%. In countries such as Estonia and Lithuania, the indicator stands at 15%. In the Netherlands prices rose by 11.9% and in Germany by 7.6%.
The crisis led the Government to create, in March, a support of 60 euros for needy families, with the aim of mitigating the “extraordinary increase in the prices of basic foodstuffs”. The support, related to March, will be paid in April and will cover families benefiting from the social electricity tariff.
The value is little more than the average amounts of a representative basket of essential products, gathered by the Observer, in three of the main retailers on April 1st, and composed of cooking oil, tuna, flour, rice, pasta, Maria biscuits, Corn cereals Flakes, milk, milk flour, apples, cod, chicken, beans, eggs, sugar, bread, toilet paper and diapers. On the first of April, the price of this shopping basket, whose brands do not match on all products, varied, in the three surfaces, between 49.43 euros and 55.89 euros.
For now, the word “rationing” is not part of the vocabulary of large distribution, although the Confederação dos Agricultores de Portugal (CAP) has already admitted this scenario. On the government side, the message is the same: “we do not anticipate that supply products will fail in supermarkets”, declared the Minister of Agriculture on March 21, appealing to avoid “panic”.