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UKRAINE

Russian gas stop will spark ‘food price hikes and supply issues’ in Germany

Germany could see its supplies of vegetables and other food products affected in the event that Russia turns off the gas taps - but the overall supply will remain secure, the Agriculture Minister has said.

Vegetables in an organic supermarket
Vegetables in an organic supermarket. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sven Hoppe

Cem Özdemir made the comments in a response to a parliamentary question by the CDU/CSU on whether the country was prepared for a sudden halt in gas deliveries from Russia.

“Many companies in the agricultural and food industry are absolutely dependent on the supply of gas in order to be able to produce food or animal feed,” according to the statement by Özdemir, which was obtained by the Rheinische Post newspaper.

“In the event of a halt in natural gas supplies from Russia, further price increases as well as bottlenecks in the supply of individual foodstuffs are to be expected.”

According to Özdemir, gas supply issues would mainly affect crops of vegetables, which could include things like aubergines, cucumbers and peppers. The supply of house and balcony plants grown in greenhouses could also be affected. 

However, there could also be an impact on other agricultural businesses such as dairy and meat farms, as well as mills and bakeries.

Overall food supply ‘secure’ 

In recent months, supermarkets in Germany have been regularly hiking up their prices as they complain of increased costs.

So far, the price rises have mainly been noticeable in the meat and dairy aisles, with sausages, butter and sour cream all among the products affected. 

However, panic-buying also led supermarkets to run low on products such as cooking oils and flour as people speculated about disrupted supplies in the early weeks of the Ukraine war.

Russia and Ukraine are both major exporters of wheat, while Ukraine is a major supplier of sunflower oil.

Food suppliers and politicians have repeatedly urged consumers to avoid stockpiling items they think could run low as they play down fears of potential shortages. 

Food fair Cem Özdemir

Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens) speaks at the opening of a food fair on April 26th, 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Marius Becker

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At present, the Ministry for Agriculture doesn’t believe that potential bottlenecks are likely to affect the country’s overall food supply. 

“The supply of food in Germany continues to be secure,” the statement from the ministry said. 

The government currently assumes that the total supply of gas “can be physically ensured until the end of summer or the beginning of autumn 2022 in the event of a sudden and prolonged stoppage of all Russian gas imports”.

If the supply of vegetables and ornamental plants is affected, this could be compensated for with supplies from other EU countries, the ministry said.

However, consumers may have to contend with further price rises in the supermarket. 

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UKRAINE

Germany among nations ‘doing the most’ for Ukraine, says chancellor

Germany is one of the countries doing the most to provide military aid to war-torn Ukraine, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said while defending his country's delays in delivering weapons to Kyiv.

Germany among nations 'doing the most' for Ukraine, says chancellor

The long delays for German weapons, compared to the speedy deliveries of US arms, are due to the need to train Ukrainian soldiers in Germany, Scholz told CBS News on the talk show “Face the Nation” broadcast Sunday.

“We will always see that Germany is one of the countries that is doing the most, because what we are sending now is the most sophisticated technology you can use,” Scholz said in the interview conducted Thursday on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Madrid.

Since Russia invaded its eastern European neighbour on February 24th, Berlin has been accused of hesitating – even being reluctant – to send weapons to Ukraine, out of concern for its relations with Moscow.

Certain US weapons were delivered less than 48 hours after President Joe Biden signed off on the transfer, CBS journalist Margaret Brennan noted during her exchange with Scholz.

READ ALSO: Germany’s Scholz vows backing for Ukraine for ‘as long as needed’

But the chancellor said comparing that timeframe to Germany’s weeks or months of delay is unreasonable.

“You should understand that there is a difference of a country like the United States, which spends that much for defense, which is a very big
investment, and you have a lot of weapons and stocks,” said Scholz.

He explained that the rocket launchers sent by other countries were already in stock, but were not necessarily the most modern, whereas Germany will send “the most modern howitzer… on the world market.”

He also expressed concern that Russian President Vladimir Putin had the means to continue his offensive in Ukraine.

“He is really doing this brutal war, and he prepared for it,” said Scholz, noting he thinks Putin decided to invade a year or more before actually doing so.

“So he will be able to continue with the war really a long time.”

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