By SUE REID
As British supermarkets ration eggs and an array of fruit and vegetables amid shortages provoked in large part by the Ukraine war, no such hardships afflict Russian citizens.
The pictures were taken at a food hall, two superstores and a corner shop in Perm, a city with a population the size of Birmingham in the Ural mountains, a 24-hour drive from Moscow. The images suggest the West’s much-vaunted sanctions on Russia, imposed to punish President Putin for his invasion, are not having a deep bite.
Now it’s Britain’s turn to suffer. Supermarkets here are rationing tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and lettuces as UK farmers struggle with higher energy costs which stop them using hothouses in winter to grow them. Soft fruit, including raspberries, are also hard to find in the shops.
Tony Montalbano, a director of Green Acre Salads in Roydon, Essex, typically produces a million kilograms of baby cucumbers a year, but his glasshouses were empty last month.
He delayed growing his crops to avoid rocketing winter fuel bills of up to £500,000 a month. He expects his production to be cut by up to half this year.
Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association, added: ‘Up and down the country, we’ve got empty glasshouses. People who would grow two or three crops of cucumbers a year may cut that to just one, because they want to avoid using more expensive energy.’
Eggs are also being rationed as farmers cannot afford the costs of keeping laying hens warm in energy-guzzling sheds.
The result is that many staples here are far more expensive than in Russia as our chart shows.
Residents of Perm, and elsewhere in Russia, have plenty of cheap food. Low-cost energy in the gas-rich nation means vegetables can be grown in hot houses throughout the bitter winter. Russia is also able to import large quantities of fruit from sympathetic countries, such as Iran, enjoying warmer climates.
Nor is there anxiety over heating homes, while filling cars with plentiful cheap petrol or diesel is a breeze.
Other factors come in to play: income tax in Russia is just 13 per cent for those earning less than £163,000 — compared to 40 or 45 per cent for higher British earners. Local tax, or council tax, is also a fraction of what people pay in the UK.
A random selection of people in Perm contacted by the Mail have provided us with their shopping receipts for a week showing prices and the availability of produce as well as their monthly utility bills. They have, in addition, taken many photographs.
They also insist Russian public hospitals ‘remain excellent’, while residents’ enrolment in the country’s health service is fully paid by their employers — so free at the point of use.