War: prices are rising, rising… and restrictions on certain products are also coming to the supermarket

If you do your shopping, you have to be prepared to pay more, from oil to cereals to milk, eggs or bread. The rise promises to continue and could be accompanied by restrictions on sales. “At the flour level, since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine two weeks ago, we have already received new tables from suppliers announcing increases of 30% from next month. The sale price will also have to increase. It’s inevitable.” The words are from Manuel Augusto, owner of a small chain of eight supermarkets in the Coimbra region who, alongside pressure on prices, is also facing supply restrictions.

“Our biggest supplier has let it be known that right now we can only buy 5% more than the average quantity of the last few months,” he says, jumping immediately to what he calls “the oil”: “If you order a tanker truck, the supplier only sends half the quantity and does not give a deadline for completing the delivery”, he adds.

In the small regional chain Pérola Mercado, Manuel Augusto has not yet imposed limits on the consumer, but in the oil sales he also makes to retailers, he has already established a limit of 100 liters. The increase in the price at which oil is bought follows that of flour (30%) and it seems that the increase could reach 60% in the short term. On its supermarket shelves, for now, a bottle of one of Portugal’s best-known cooking oil brands currently costs 2.79 euros and next week it will drop to 3.79 euros.

“These are the two products most conditioned in quantity and price by the war in Ukraine”, specifies the businessman, without forgetting that the rise in prices had already come from behind, largely due to the rise in costs of raw materials, energy and transport. So, for example, a pack of six rolls of toilet paper also increased by 30% last month, from 2.25 euros to 3 euros.

And the list of climbs goes on. Regarding eggs, a supplier has already increased its prices twice in 15 days. In total, it’s 20% more, which means that the dozen will go from 2 euros to 2.4 euros next week. In milk, the table has also been updated twice this year, in January and March, to take into account the increase in production costs, from energy to food, “with a tendency to get worse”. A liter used to cost 65 cents and now costs 77 cents, he says, admitting that “the increase in bread can easily reach 50%”.

“These constant increases in tables by suppliers is something we were not at all used to and that we will have to learn to manage in the near future”, comments the entrepreneur who joins the Aqui é Fresco chain. to its supermarkets, launched in 2011. by Unimark, whose general manager is João Vieira Lopes, president of the CCP – Confederation of Commerce and Services of Portugal.

While big supermarket chains take the time to do the math and provide data on price increases, small traders help sketch the scenario the Portuguese face on a daily basis, admitting that much depends on the pace of renewal of their actionsgenerally limited.

“The increase is generalized and at this stage it accumulates the impact of the increase in fuel, energy and raw material prices that comes from behind, but it is accentuated with the war”, comments Fernando Marques, owner of Fernando’s Supermercado, in Aveiro.

He knows that if he bought oil now, he would pay 30% more than when he last ordered and in the short term the increase will be 50%, “which will necessarily be reflected in the selling price”, he admits. .

And, like his colleague from Coimbra, he lists other recent increases that complicate the scenario: a can of canned beans sold to the public for 90 cents in January is now worth 1.19 euros, while cut pasta from a national brand jumped 15% in recent days, from 90 cents to 1.05 euros, and the kg of flour went from 75 cents to 85 cents. Plus: “Getting 5 kg bags of flour is already an almost impossible mission”.

In the case of meat, the combination of all the factors that fueled inflation, as well as drought and war, also translates into numbers: “a kilo of cow carcass costs more than a euro. The kilo of rump steak has gone from 13.9 euros/kg to 15 euros, and chicken, which in February was at 2.49 euros, has now gone to 2.98 euros,” he reports.

Needle rice is 10 cents more expensive, bar cheese is already bought 10% more expensive, but the increase has not yet reached the customer, and semi-skimmed milk in this supermarket has gone from 49 cents to 54 cents this week.

Animal feed follows the trend. “A bag of cat food at 2.50 euros is 2.99 euros,” he adds.

And do customers complain? “The reaction is rather surprise. In fact, inside the box, even we are surprised when we do the math. The trend is for confirmation because we think the value is too high,” he reports.

As for changes in customer behavior, the two businessmen agree to point to the same “inevitable trend: buying products in the least expensive segments”.

About changes in consumption over the past two weeksalso agree to justify the changes to the basket by the wave of solidarity with Ukraine, as do the two distribution chains that responded to the Express, the Musketeers and Lidl. However, in the case of sunflower oil, Spain has already imposed restrictions on purchases and the Mercadona chain, which has supermarkets in Portugal, has introduced the same rule in the national market.

In the case of the Jerónimo Martins group, President Pedro Soares dos Santos said this Thursday that “inflation is much higher than what is said”, reaching values ​​of 60% in the case of oils and 40% in cereals. The group also assumed to have reached an agreement with producers for a further rise in the price of milk, admitting that “if there are no producers, there is no milk”.

As for the most significant impacts in terms of prices in the near future, they will concern pasta, bread, oil, rations, meat, milk and eggs, the businessman admitted during a a press conference called after the presentation of the results, adding that he was ready to make some sacrifices in terms of profits to mitigate the price increase, but at the same time asking for “common sense” in negotiations with production, he assumed: “There will be madness in terms of attempts to raise prices and we are going to have a big fight to stop it”.

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