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WTO Fails to Benefit Russian Consumers

Published: August 2, 2013 (Issue # 1771)



  • Cheaper imported products are allowing retail chains to increase their margins, while local producers suffer.
    Photo: Sergei Porter / Vedomosti

Russians were promised lower prices when the country joined the World Trade Organization, but one year on prices continue to rise at least for consumers.

Increased competition from WTO members is lowering wholesale prices and putting huge pressure on domestic producers, but consumers continue to pay the same or more for their products because of the monopolies held by retailers in their market segments. These were the conclusions of the annual monitoring report that the Public Chamber, an elected citizen group that aims to influence state policies, presented Thursday.

"One of the motives for the WTO accession was to lower prices for consumers. There has been no such effect," said Mikhail Popov, head of the Public Chamber's agriculture working group. "There is one single reason for this: Retail competition is insufficient."

Prices on food products, medicine, car maintenance and utility services have jumped 43 percent since May 2010, according to the report. Bread prices have increased by 20 percent over the last year; dairy products by 12 percent and potatoes by 55 percent.

The general trend is that when wholesale prices increase, so do retail prices, but when wholesale prices fall, retail prices stay the same or continue to increase, the report shows.

While consumers feel no benefits from increased competition, WTO membership is throwing down the gauntlet to Russian producers.

For example, the wholesale pork prices fell by 26 percent over the last year, yet retail prices only fell 6 percent. Meanwhile, increasing WTO imports will cost pork suppliers up to 40 billion rubles ($1.2 billion) each year, according to the Public Chamber.

Milk producers have also been hit. Imports of dairy products rose by 20 percent last year to about 9 million tons, equivalent to a 30-billion ruble loss for Russian producers, largely as a result of the WTO accession.

"[Local dairy producers] are not competitive in the Customs Union and especially in the WTO," said Andrei Danilenko, chairman of the National Union of Dairy Producers. "This year alone, we have lost so great a volume in milk production that we will fall back to 2005 levels by 2014."

Danilenko predicted that consumers will pay 10 percent extra for dairy products by the end of this year. Not wishing to scare consumers with higher prices, more producers will opt to supplement their dairy products with cheaper milk substitutes, such as palm oil, he added.

Ten to 30 percent of dairy products currently on the shelves are already doctored in this way.

The mismatch between wholesale and retail price movement is also evident in the grain sector. Prices fell from 11,500 rubles per ton in February to 6,500 rubles per ton at the end of July, yet bread prices continue to rise, said Arkady Zlochevsky, president of the Russian Grain Union.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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