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Russians’ spending on food doubles following Ukraine war: UN food agency

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Russian citizens are spending on average 40 percent of their disposable income on food - about twice as much as they did before the Russia-Ukraine war, the director of the UN food agency’s Russia liaison office told Reuters.

Russian government data shows annual food inflation hit 18.75 percent on April 1 as the economy reels from Western sanctions imposed on Moscow following its February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Oleg Kobiakov of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said many Russian households are now resorting to crisis coping strategies as much of their income goes toward basic needs like food.

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“People are postponing plans like going to college or buying a house. They’re saving in case they lose their job, in case of death,” he said.

The average EU household spends about 12 percent of its income on food, he said, adding that while hunger is not on the cards in Russia, poorer households will face increased levels of food insecurity.

Western sanctions on Russia have closed its economy off from much of global trade, blocked it from swathes of the global financial system and pushed multi-nationals to cut ties with the country.

Many Russians have been panic buying staples like sugar and buckwheat since the war for fear that prices have further to rise, piling pressure on the government to cool inflation.

Moscow is considering regulating prices for food, medicines and other goods and has temporarily banned some agricultural exports. It says it could also move to price almost all its commodity exports in rubles.

While the measures have had some impact in capping consumer inflation, it is still expected to accelerate to 23.7 percent this year, its highest since 1999, according to a Reuters poll.

The poll also has Russia’s economy shrinking 7.3 percent in 2022 - in its deepest contraction since 2009.

Kobiakov said Russian salaries have stayed roughly the same since the war, but with prices rising, purchasing power has been eroded and people are worried about job security with many Western firms pulling out of the country.

Moscow calls its actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to demilitarize the country.

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