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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Fred Goes Shopping
Fred Flintstone

Fred has been watching his grocery checks climb during the past couple of years. There was a time when he could live cheap in Bedrock. No more. In October, Fred set off with Wilma and Fred Jr. to visit the Jetsons to see how Bedrock food costs compare with theirs. He took a list of common Bedrock grocery and household items and compared them on a kilogram, liter or unit basis. It came as no shock that, for almost every item, prices were higher, and for many, significantly higher.

One difficulty when making such a comparison is quality. For many food items, like packaged pasta, canned tuna or mayonnaise, there is no large apparent difference in quality, but in some other cases the difference is large. The lowest-priced decent bacon in Moscow comes from Hungary, but does not compare even closely to the meaty, American bacon, even though it is almost two and a half times as expensive as the American. Or take eggs - 12 large cage-free, clean Iowa eggs priced at $1.89 per dozen compared with 10 Russian eggs, priced 150% higher, feathers and all. A Russian frozen pizza, thin on cheese and other ingredients, is 270% the price of a US Tonys Pizza, heavily laden with sausage, cheese and tomato.

Transport doesnt explain the price dif ferences a 750 ml bot tle of Perrier is 214% of the US price and a liter plastic bot tle of Evian is 143% higher. A bot tle of Russia brewed Heineken beer is 114% higher than an authentic Dutch brewed Heineken in America.

Since many name brand products are now produced in or near Russia, the only apparent explanation for higher price is whatever the market will bear. For instance, a can of Coca Cola is 180% higher, Bon Aqua bot tled water 158% higher than the US equivalent, a bot tle of local brewed Miller 188% higher, Nescafe instant cof fee 164% higher, and Pampers (4-6 kg) a whopping 361% higher.

Bread and vodka are among the very few bargains remaining in Russia. Of all the items in the Freds comparison, only red potatoes, Orbit chewing gum, TV Park magazine, oatmeal, and, surprisingly, Heinz ketchup were lower than US prices.

The Russian government has become alarmed about the rising food prices, and has pressured food retailers to keep prices stable before the election. If history is a teacher, the principal ef fects of this will be shortages of cer tain food items, and big price hikes af ter the election. Fred, Wilma and Fred Jr returned from the holidays to find some prices continue to rise a 200 gram package of Valio (Finnish) but ter is now 71.5 rubles, up from 41.5 rubles in October.

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