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‘Show solidarity’: Germans urged not to panic-buy over shortage fears

People in Germany are being urged not to stockpile supermarket items like sunflower oil and flour over worries about shortages due to Russia's war on Ukraine. We look at what's going on.

A shopper loading a trolley in Berlin in November 2021.
A shopper loading a trolley in Berlin in November 2021. Consumers have been urged not to stockpile. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl

What’s happening?

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, experts have warned that there could be supply issues for items – such as sunflower oil and flour – and that consumer prices will rise.

Since then photos have emerged on social media of empty shelves, signalling that people are panic-buying.

Supermarkets also say they are noticing an increased demand for cooking oils, and have introduced measures such as temporarily restricting sales to one or two bottles per customer.

READ ALSO: Consumer prices in Germany expected to rise further

What’s the reaction?

The Federal Association of the German Food Trade (BVLH) has appealed to people in Germany to avoid hoarding items. 

Photos of empty shelves are a reminder of the early pandemic days in 2020 when people in Germany (and across the world) cleared out supermarkets of items like toilet roll, flour, pasta and hygiene products. 

As was the case at the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, customers should “show solidarity with each other and only buy products in household quantities”, said association spokesman Christian Böttcher on Tuesday.

The Twitter post reads: “The people who fought over toilet paper in the pandemic yesterday will fight over cooking oil and flour tomorrow. Welcome to Germany!”

Is there actually shortage of cooking oil and other products?

Böttcher said that the trade association did not yet have any information about a nationwide shortage of sunflower oil in the German retail sector.

However, Ukraine is an important raw material supplier of sunflower oil – and Germany is one of its largest importers.

Ukraine “accounts for 51 percent of the quantity available on the world market and is one of the most important importing countries for Germany”, said Böttcher.

Russia and Ukraine also make up about 30 percent of the world’s wheat exports. As both countries are now largely out of business as suppliers because of the war, experts are warning of price increases and shortages. 

Böttcher said there would be effects on the German market if important suppliers continue to be affected.

But it remains to be seen “to what extent rising costs at the preliminary stages as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war will be passed on through the chain”, he said. 

“Economists, however, assume that the general inflation in food will continue for the time being,” Böttcher said. Longer-term forecasts aren’t possible because of the turbulence on the markets, he added.

READ ALSO: How prices in Germany will rise as the war in Ukraine continues

Earlier in the day, the Association of the Oilseed Processing Industry in Germany (OVID)  told DPA that sunflower oil could become scarce in Germany within a few weeks.

However, shortages and price rises are not just down to the war. Failed harvests and the pandemic have contributed to the problem in recent months. 

A Twitter user posts a sign in a shop says only two bottles of oil are allowed per household.

What are retailers saying?

Hanna Koll, a spokesperson for the supermarket Edeka told German media group RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland (RND) that, generally, “a sufficient supply of all products for daily needs” is ensured.

“In individual cases, however, there may be short-term supply bottlenecks for certain products,” she added. “This applies in particular to cooking oils, some of which also come from Ukraine.”

A shopper holds toilet roll and kitchen paper at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 when Germans were urged not to panic buy.

A shopper holds toilet roll and kitchen paper at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 when Germans were urged not to panic buy. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Rene Traut

Contrary to some media reports, Aldi Nord has not yet began rationing oil, the company told RND.

“At ALDI Nord, there are currently no general sales restrictions on the product range, although we generally ask our customers to buy only in household-standard quantities,” a spokesperson said. The sale of some goods, including cooking oils, currently fluctuates from day to day. As a result, some items may be out of stock for a short time, the spokesperson added. 

A Netto spokesperson told RND that the local supply of all products for daily needs is guaranteed.

“In the past few weeks, demand in some product ranges has basically been at a high level, but our logistics have adjusted to this,” the spokesperson said.

“Should there be short-term supply bottlenecks for certain products in individual cases – as is the case in particular with cooking oils originating from Ukraine – our customers can generally benefit from our range of around 5,000 articles and can fall back on private label and branded articles as product alternatives,” said the spokeswoman, urging that there is no need to stockpile.

READ ALSO: How the cost of living crisis is affecting everyday life in Germany

A Lidl spokeswoman also said the supply of goods in the shops was guaranteed. “Only individual products can experience delivery delays,” she said. “Since we offer our customers a diverse range at attractive prices, there are always enough alternatives available.”

Regardless of the current situation, Lidl sells goods in household quantities, the spokeswoman said.

The German Retail Association (HDE) recently stated that it did not expect supply bottlenecks in items due to the war in Ukraine. 

Germany, like Ukraine, is a food exporter of meat, wheat and dairy products.

German Minister of Agriculture, Cem Özdemir, also said he considered the supply “secured”, but warned of price increases.

While the impact on Germany is likely to be limited, UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently warned of a “hurricane of hunger” worldwide. The international community must act to prevent a “meltdown of the global food system”, he said.

Did you know?

Der Hamsterkauf is a German word used to describe the panic buying or hoarding that occurs during times of widespread fear or concern. 

It comes from the verb hamstern because hamsters are known for filling their cheeks with food. 

Member comments

  1. Here we go again. The self fulfilling prophecy has begun again.
    I own shares of milka. So naturally if you ask me. Milka chocolate shortage. Buy buy buy people.

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Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.