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Oct 16, 2021
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Michelin stars lit up for the elite, and bread and milk are more and more expensive

In the photo: visitors to White Rabbit, one of 69 restaurants included in the Moscow Michelin guide.

Photo: visitors to White Rabbit, one of 69 restaurants included in the Moscow Michelin Guide. (Photo: Sergey Fadeichev / TASS)

The rise in prices for basic foodstuffs in Russia has been recognized by the government as unacceptable. First Deputy Prime Minister was charged with rectifying the situation Andrey Belousov, which has a reputation as a “commissar” after withdrawing the super profits of some exporters to the budget.

According to Mikhail MishustinBelousov should coordinate the proposals of the Ministry of Agriculture with the proposals of an economic nature of other interested ministries and departments and summarize them to present to the prime minister. Previous measures were found to be successful but insufficient.

The prime minister’s order was given after the report of the head of the Ministry of Agriculture Dmitry Patrushaand, in which he noted an uncharacteristic rise in prices for two groups of goods: fruits and vegetables and livestock products. That is, almost everything, with the exception of cereals and all sorts of exotics.

It seems that the head of the Ministry of Agriculture paid too much attention to the production of non-traditional delicacies for our country and forgot that people are waiting for cheap simple food. It is memorable that Patrushev’s speech on the development of snail production in Crimea, which is in dire need of state subsidies.

Patrushev also does not have to wait for help from the head of the Ministry of Economic Development. Vladimir Putin back in December 2020 he criticized the “experiments” Maxim Reshetnikova with food prices. It is strange that the minister is not yet retired. Belousov will have to work hard with the “laggards”.

The main task of the Deputy Prime Minister now is to stabilize price increases in the long term. The ministers under him do not really believe in the reality of the task, since they constantly refer to the dependence of the Russian economy on global economic processes, including inflation.

The growth in the cost of food on the planet is really not small. Food prices rose 19.9% ​​from January to September 2021, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Will Belousov want to break the “umbilical cord” connecting Russia with the world market?

Prices for bread, milk, potatoes in conditions when the incomes of the majority of Russians have been falling for 7-8 years in a row (the president has just named low incomes the main problem of the country) is not only an economic issue, but also a political one. Few people want to maintain power on an empty stomach.

The authorities are trying to solve prosaic but important problems of the food market against the background of an almost fabulous event in the life of the wealthy class – the arrival of the Michelin restaurant guide in Russia. The ceremony of conferring “stars” gathered on the eve of the entire capital’s elite. Feast in Time of Plague?

Paying tribute to gastronomy as an art, one cannot fail to note the polarization of Russian society. “Tops” spend their time in government offices and Michelin-starred restaurants, “lower classes” are forced to recalculate depreciating incomes: will there be enough for porridge and butter?

But do the haves know that the Michelin restaurant guide, so coveted by them, emerged as a completely democratic undertaking: the French tire manufacturer advised drivers where to have a good meal on the way, he said “SP” culinary historian Pavel Syutkin

Having imported into Russia the external trappings of capitalism, its chic and splendor, the Russian political elite would not hurt to import the accompanying certain concern for the well-being of the broad masses, including the condition of their stomachs.

Renat Suleimanov, member of the State Duma Committee of the VIII convocation on agrarian issues insists on more vigorous government regulation:

– The rise in food prices is the main problem that worries the citizens of Russia. In our country, inflation has intensified. Even according to official data, it is now 6.7 percent, the annual rate will be about 7 percent. And the check inflation on food is up to 20 percent or more (the head of the Central Bank has just admitted this Elvira Nabiullina – Auth.).

Despite all the instructions of the president, the government is still unable to cope with the rise in food prices. Before the elections, “United Russia” announced its victory to reduce prices for the “borscht set”. But this is the same seasonal decline that occurs every year in connection with a new harvest. There is no merit of the ruling party in this. To influence the situation, systemic measures are needed.

“SP”: – What?

– We need an increase in the supply of agricultural products. Production in the country is growing, although not as much as we would like. In addition, we are proud, of course, that we export agricultural products, in particular grain, and receive large foreign exchange earnings from this. But this means that prices on the domestic market rise to the level of world prices, as is the case in a market economy.

Therefore, these processes need to be regulated. For example, it is no secret that the share of the agricultural producer’s labor in the final price of the product in our country is only 10-15 percent. The rest is logistics, mark-ups for intermediaries, retail chains. There is something for the government to work with. In general, there is no unregulated market anywhere in the world.

The methods of influencing him have been worked out for centuries. Among the instruments are customs duties, regulation of margins, creation of state food funds for intervention etc. The question is on whose side the authorities are acting. They can be guided by the population, by the demands of citizens, and can be by the super profits of exporters of agricultural products or the interests of retail chains.

According to former Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Food, D.Sc. n. Leonid Kholoda, it is necessary to keep prices down carefully.

– The details of the proposals of the Ministry of Agriculture were not announced. Belousov’s involvement is necessary so that he, as the head of the economic vertical of the Cabinet, looks at what the Ministry of Agriculture has proposed there. Last time, they did not have complete unanimity of opinion on the urgent regulation of prices, when the price of one or the other type of food went up. The Ministry of Industry and Trade, in charge of trade, was also against it.

SP: – It turns out that this problem cannot be solved only at the level of the Ministry of Agriculture?

– Stopping the rise in prices is a macro task. It touches on inflation, income, and the very functioning of the economy. Otherwise, you can freeze prices so that production will collapse and then teeth on the shelf. It is necessary to give an account that we live in a market economy, where each subject has the right to independently determine the price for his product or service. And the state, when regulating prices, should remember that it will have to bear responsibility for this.

Regulation, even voluntary – by the method of signing agreements [о ценах] do not get carried away. Any interference with prices, corporate or small-scale, smells like monopoly collusion. The best way, albeit not instantaneous, long-lasting, is to develop competition and infrastructure. That is, the institutions and instruments of the market. That’s why we have a market economy. If it is canceled, then other methods are possible.

It is obvious that the rise in food prices will restrain the increase in its supply on the market. Including from small and medium-sized manufacturers. The necessary list of measures for this was proposed farmer-cheese-maker Oleg Sirota

– It is necessary to abolish the fuel excise tax for agricultural producers and regulate the cost of diesel fuel. The Federal Antimonopoly Service must deal with fertilizer prices. It would be nice to increase the size of the subsidy per hectare, as well as to increase the term on a concessional loan to two years (up to five percent, currently it is one year).

In addition, it is necessary to solve the problems with the allocation of land to farmers. Adopt a program to increase subsidies for land commissioning and a subsidy program for high-tech production (robotic and automated) and their components. And also to abolish the labeling of dairy products.

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