Russia Wary As Ruble Devalued
MOSCOW (AP) _ Natasha Popov stood among shelves of canned food in the Sadko supermarket, slapping on higher price tags. It was the second price rise in three days.
``A week ago we were selling food at an exchange rate of 6.2 (rubles to the dollar) and now it’s 8.4,″ she said, adding that even the newly rich in Moscow are checking prices before buying.
The effects of Russia’s economic crisis have begun to be felt at the street level, especially in rising prices for imports, which make up the bulk of the items for sale at the upscale Sadko supermarket.
And as Russia’s ruble continues to lose value, consumers are taking different approaches to their purchases.
Many Russians can’t afford expensive imports, and business has been slow at Sadko, Popov said. But at local grocery stores, where memories of the hyperinflation of the 90s are still strong, some people are stocking up.
``In the places where I shop, the lines are very big,″ Popov said. ``In the government places, people are buying butter and sugar. You see them coming out with two or three bags full of food.″
For Galina Filatova, a small candy shop owner, the price rises have just meant taking precautions and adding a little extra on shopping trips.
``Prices on most things haven’t risen yet, but we are buying more in case,″ she said. ``Before, I might have bought one package of sugar, but now I’m buying three at a time.″
Still, there has been little panic buying. One reason is that many Russians haven’t been paid in months and are short of cash.
``When you only have enough money to buy food for the month, you don’t think about (stocking up),″ said Tatyana Atamas, a teacher. ``In my circle there’s no panic because there’s no money.″
And for now, many Muscovites would rather buy dollars than flour with their rubles.
Arkady Charyan, who sells newspapers from a kiosk, learned how to deal with devaluation in 1991, when hyperinflation made his rubles all but worthless. Back then, it was even harder to buy dollars, he says.
``The panic is at the foreign exchange offices because people have rubles and they’re trying to get rid of them,″ Charyan said.
However, as the supply of dollars continues to tighten, worried customers may begin to buy durable goods. And some stores say they fear they may not be able to restock.
``No one is taking our orders because they don’t know what prices to change,″ said Lydia Berukova, deputy director of a general food store. ``We’re waiting for some sort of stability.″