Grocery stores replacing Russian, Belarusian products

A man in a grocery store.
A man in a grocery store. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonian grocery stores are searching for alternative products after scrapping items from Russia and Belarus due to the war in Ukraine. Chains are looking for new supply chains in different countries.

ETV's current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Monday that two products that are harder to source at a similar price point are salt and buckwheat.

The cheapest salt currently available in Rimi costs 26 euros per kilo. Before Russia attacked Ukraine on February 24, the company had 24 different salts on sale but most have since been scrapped.

Rimi's Purchasing Manager Maris Rannus said a "sharp jump" in prices is expected for some items.

"Salt and soda [Sodium carbonite] are the most difficult, but there are active negotiations and we have found replacements for both products, unfortunately at a higher price. It is difficult with sunflower oil, because half of the sunflower oil comes from Ukraine," he said.

The situation is the same with buckwheat. Only expensive alternatives are now for sale after Russian products were removed from the shelves. These are now being returned to wholesalers.

At Selver, Russian and Belarusian items are still on sale but the proceeds will be given to charities supporting Ukraine.

"In the meantime, while we are looking for substitutes products, there are indeed some holes in the shelves and we are waiting for some substitutes until the end of the week," said Rivo Veski, Selver 's head of communications.

In Maxima, limits have been placed on buying dry goods. The company said in a written statement people have been bulk buying goods as the prices are lower than in other stores.

Marje Josing, the head of the Institute of Economic Research, said that unfortunately the sale of salt is an indicator that reflects consumers' anxiety.   

Products of Russian and Belarusian origin make up approximately 1 percent of produce in Estonian grocery stores. Consumers will more likely be affected by inflation.

The war will also raise global grain and oil prices which will eventually push prices of food up, Josing said.

She said goods already purchased should be sold and replacement products found instead.

"It's a very good idea that we don't buy food from an aggressor anymore, we can do without it," said Josing.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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