SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

UKRAINE

‘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.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

POLITICS

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Germany's investments in defence in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine will transform it into the biggest contributor to NATO in Europe, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

Scholz says Germany to become biggest NATO force in Europe

Alongside the United States, Germany is “certainly making the largest contribution” to NATO, Scholz said in an interview with the ARD broadcaster.

Speaking at the close of a summit of leaders from the Group of Seven rich democracies, Scholz said Germany was in the process of creating “the largest conventional army within the NATO framework in Europe”.

Days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Scholz announced a 100-billion-euro ($105-billion) fund to beef up Germany’s military defences and offset decades of chronic underfunding.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Bundestag approves €100 billion fund to beef up defences

He also promised to meet NATO’s target of spending two percent of GDP on defence, answering years of criticism from close allies that Berlin was failing to contribute enough to the alliance.

Russia’s invasion had led to a renewed conviction “that we should spend more money on defence”, Scholz said.

“We will spend an average of around 70 to 80 billion euros a year on defence over the next few years,” he said, meaning “Germany is the country that invests the most in this”.

Scholz’s announcement in February was seen as a major policy shift, upending Germany’s traditionally cautious approach to defence as a result of its post-war guilt.

Germany had steadily reduced the size of its army since the end of the Cold War from around 500,000 at the time of reunification in 1990 to just 200,000.

NATO allies are from Tuesday gathering in Madrid for a summit, where the United States is expected to announce new long-term military deployments across Europe.

SHOW COMMENTS