January 21, 2021 President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin once again expressed concern about the continuing rise in retail prices for foodstuffs, noting that they increased more than inflation, breaking the target of the mega-regulator and reaching an average of 4.9%, and for some product groups – by as much as 6.7%.
On the same day, the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation recommended that the regional authorities hold negotiations with producers to curb prices for pasta, eggs and potatoes.
In parallel with this, the head of the Russian government Mikhail Mishustin announced the government’s plans to allocate more than 4.5 billion rubles to curb the rise in prices provoked by an increase in the cost of cereals (according to Sovecon, only in the first working week of 2021, the average prices for wheat jumped by as much as 3.5%). “We hope that these transfers will help to compensate flour producers for part of the cost of purchasing wheat, and bakery enterprises will reduce the cost of selling their products. Such a balanced solution will not only help the food industry, but, above all, will keep prices down, ”he stressed.
And this despite the fact that at the end of 2020, the Cabinet has already allocated 4.7 billion rubles for partial compensation of the costs of producers of flour, bread and bakery products. Of this amount, 2.9 billion rubles were spent on the purchase of food wheat, and 1.8 billion rubles – to pay compensation to bakery enterprises.
Meanwhile, for all the time that the authorities have shown concern about the rise in food prices (since December 2020), food prices continue to rise quietly. So, the price tags for sunflower oil in the outlets of the largest Russian retailers mostly vary in the range from 120 to 145 rubles per 900 grams, and the cost of other goods most popular among Russians – bread, potatoes, pasta, eggs – is also quite briskly creeping up … Although only in 2020, according to Rosstat estimates, the same chicken eggs have risen in price by 15.1%, pasta – by 12.1%, potatoes – by 33.8%.
This raises a lot of questions. For example, how is it that after the next record harvest of grain is collected, the retail price of bakery products grows, and bakers need serious government support? And one more thing – will not, in principle, such a situation with manual regulation of prices for virtually all basic food products of poor Russians lead to disastrous results?
Some popular Telegram channels on this occasion have already rushed to be noted with gloomy forecasts.
“The tactic of local plugging of holes, although recognized at the top as effective, is, firstly, capable of providing only a short-term result, and, secondly, it does not solve the problem in a complex that grows like a snowball. In fact, in order to bring prices in line with the wallets of the poorer Russians, it is necessary either to return completely to the Soviet model of the economy and planned pricing, or to ensure the growth of incomes of the population, that is, to follow the path of economic and, therefore, inevitable political reforms. Since the course has been taken for conservation, the scenario with reforms is postponed until later, but a return to the State Planning Commission is no longer possible. Hence, all sorts of hybrid approaches and half-hearted temporary measures that are designed to hold out for a period, and then either the donkey dies, or Biden lifts the sanctions, or oil will rise to $ 150 again, which, in general, is equally impossible. imagine “, – published, in particular, a post on January 21 tg-channel “Kremlin BezBashennik”…
Interviewed “SP” experts also do not see any particular reasons for optimism in the current situation.
– This year we have the second largest wheat harvest – 132.9 million tons. It was higher only in 2017, when grain growers simply grabbed their heads, what to do with such surpluses, which there is nowhere to store inside the country – there is no capacity, and there is nowhere to export – we sell only to the Middle and Middle East, and the Western hemisphere is blocked by the USA and Canada … As a result, part of the harvest corny died, – shared his point of view on what is happening Analyst of FINAM Group Alexey Korenev… – However, prices in the domestic market are growing because producers have started to raise prices following the world ones, since it is more profitable for them to sell wheat abroad.
And you don’t have to discount the chain of intermediaries between the manufacturer and the distributor, each link in which – and there are at least 2-3 of them – adds its own percentage to the initial cost. For the same sugar, for example, it is 500-100 rubles per ton of product. The protracted attempt to fix prices for sugar and butter, which Mikhail Mishustin himself recognized as non-market, apparently taught the government that it is necessary to resort to market levers. And this is including just subsidizing all those who are between the garden and the counter. Moreover, not a banal “distribution of elephants” to everyone, but the provision of funds only to those who really need it and confirms compensation for expenses at least for not raising prices, God bless him, with a decrease.
“SP”: – But will 4.5 billion rubles be enough to keep bread prices from rising?
– Honestly, I find it difficult to say how adequate this amount is, but I sincerely hope that the experts have calculated it correctly. This measure is really necessary. The question is that it doesn’t work out the same way as with sugar and vegetable oil. After all, they promised us oil at retail at no more than 110 rubles, and sugar at 45. But I keep track of the situation in the regions and see that somewhere oil is traded at 135, and somewhere at 150 rubles. So it is necessary not to fix prices, but to subsidize producers in order to have the right to demand from them in this case that the prices do not rise.
“SP”: – Considering that, in addition to bread, we still have problems with the prices of eggs, pasta and potatoes, the question arises – will the government have enough cash reserves to distribute, figuratively speaking, to all sisters on earrings, subsidize, in fact, everyone and everything?
– On the one hand, all this, of course, looks bad, because it is well known that the “manual” economy is extremely inefficient. But, on the other hand, in fact, we have a lot of money. Russia is now one of the world leaders in terms of reserves, if we consider them not in absolute terms (it’s hard to compete with the Chinese), but in relation to the country’s GDP. Our National Welfare Fund totals 13.5 trillion rubles, and the current oil prices make it possible to replenish it faster than it is spent. From year to year, we still have impressive funds that go to the government’s reserve unspent on national projects.
So there is money, and it is not only possible to allocate it, but also necessary. But why the government is in no hurry to spend them is a question. Yes, the children were suddenly given 5 thousand rubles each, yes, they helped small and medium-sized businesses in 2 years worth 600 billion. But against the background of 100 trillion rubles, the GDP is a drop in the ocean. Why, instead, they economize so harshly, why such an installation is underway, I, unfortunately, do not know, since I do not work in the government.
“SP”: – If the government does not fundamentally change anything, but continues to follow the policy of “local plugging of holes” in the food market, will the situation in the nineties be repeated in Russia, when the country introduced food coupons, but even in stores was it problematic to buy something for them?
– To be honest, now it is very difficult to use the logic that we have become accustomed to over the past decade, – stated Pavel Shapkin, chairman of the National Union for the Protection of Consumer Rights… – Because now we have entered the area of unpredictable changes and changes. Let’s see what the next month will show. What will happen during this time will show us in which direction everything is moving.
I do not presume now how exactly the situation will develop, but if we leave the situation as it is, then in the near future we will get an even greater collapse of producers that are not part of transnational commercial and industrial financial groups, the last remnants of independent retail will disappear. It is clear that there will be some kind of trade, but there will be even more price diktat. And dear gentlemen from the government will say from time to time – guys, you are doing something wrong, let’s not now raise prices for this and that. What will they remember there in addition to butter and sugar – about salt, about matches, about soap? I dont know.
I only know that such an imitation of hectic activity will only be good as top news feeds for news aggregators. But this will definitely not have any positive effect on the skinny wallets of the poorer Russians.