Russia's Food Import Ban is Already Backfiring Horribly

In Depth

In surprising news to Dear Leader Poot-Poot/his Dmitri Medvedev skin suit and completely unsurprising news to anyone who isn’t a crazy, megalomaniacal dictator, Russia’s food import ban turns out to have been a really, really bad idea.

Yes, it turns out Poot-Poot’s I’m Taking My Ball And Going Home Initiative has not worked out all that well. Funny, it’s not like any of us predicted at the time that the country was punching itself right in the dick or anything. Here are some of the numbers:

The weekly price increase was especially sharp for foodstuffs like chicken (+1.4 percent), pork (+0.9 percent), frozen fish (+0.5 percent) and cheese (+0.4 percent), the State Statistics Service said. The retail price for apples rose by 0.5 percent from the previous week. This is the most glaring example of the market’s reaction to the imports ban, analysts at Raiffeisen Bank said in a research note. Apple prices tend not to increase in summer, when new crops are harvested, they added.

That probably doesn’t look too high to you until you consider that’s the weekly price increase. Yeah. There’s that. Also, normally Russia sees price deflation in fruits and vegetables through August, due to local supply and imports. The fact that they’re seeing an increase is not a great sign for them.

Inflation is now pushing the Russian economy (already in the crapper after bad economic decisions like the Sochi Olympics, the 2018 World Cup, and the Crimean invasion) further and further towards recession. The annual inflation rate for 2014 is likely to be around 7.8%, up from 6.5% in 2013, and it’s not going anywhere: in 2015, it’s entirely likely we could see it top 8%. By the way, Russia’s central bank’s “acceptable” inflation target for 2015 is 4.5%.

Oh, but you might be thinking this is just hitting the cities (something a lot of commenters predicted on the last post, as if the millions of people in Moscow or St. Petersburg somehow aren’t as important as the people living in rural areas)? NOPE. The hardest hit regions are actually the more remote areas, such as Sakhalin Island off the Eastern coast of Russia (where chicken legs have already risen in cost by 60%) and nearby Primorsky (where meat costs have gone up by 25%, and fish by 40%). Turns out that when you take remote areas who can’t grow their own food and are thus heavily dependent on imports (and there are a lot of these areas in Russia, because it’s Russia) and suddenly cut off their primary means of supply because the people running your country are petulant children, things get really shitty for them really fast.

As for how Russia plans to fix this, they appear to be operating under the “just ignore it and it’ll get better” school of thought: they expect the ban on imports to help local suppliers develop, ignoring that a) that doesn’t work, historically, and b) even if it did, it’d take years to work, and certain items (such as meat) are likely to never be fully replaceable through local supply. They could, as they’ve talked about, find suppliers from other countries not under the embargo, but not only does that take time, the new suppliers are certain to gouge them (since they know they don’t have competition). That’s how economics works.

It might seem like I’m reveling in Russia’s misery right now, but that’s not the case. I genuinely feel for anyone who has to suffer under the heel of a joke “democracy” while autocrats profit from their misery. I’d feel for them a lot more if 74% of the country didn’t think homosexuality should not be accepted by society, though. Or if they would stop thinking it’s cool to compare black people to monkeys.

Alright, maybe I take back what I said about not reveling — I feel for whatever percentage of the country isn’t homophobic and racist (and also, obviously, for the LGBT and PoC groups suffering at the hands of people who are homophobic and racist). The bigots can bankrupt themselves for all I care.

Image via Aleksander Mijatovic/Shutterstock.

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