Food prices might be soaring in Russia, as inflation continues to rise – but the cost of one Russian staple is coming down: vodka.
The Russian government has cut the minimum price of vodka, in an attempt to stop people turning to moonshine – or high-proof counterfeit spirits – amid rising prices, according to local media reports.
The minimum price of half a liter of vodka was cut to 185 roubles ($2.70), a reduction of 16 percent on the previous minimum price of 220 rubles, The Moscow Times reported earlier this week.
The minimum retail price for vodka was first set in 2009 as part of a government crackdown on binge drinking. In 2014, the price was raised from 89 rubles ($1.20) to 199 rubles ($2.80), before being hiked to a record high of 220 rubles ($3.16) per half liter, the paper reported.
The price cut comes as the economic crisis in Russia starts to take its toll on the civilian population, and rising prices have pushed some to counterfeit versions of the country’s traditional drink.
Counterfeit alcohol consumption has grown “as much as 65 percent” since the government’s minimum-pricing policy was introduced, Vadim Drobiz, head of the Center for Federal and Regional Alcohol Market Studies think tank, told The Moscow Times.
Accompanying the rise in moonshine consumption was a fall in official vodka production, which slipped 22 percent in 2014, according to state statistics agency Rosstat.
Russia’s economy has been hit hard by the severe decline in global oil prices and Western sanctions imposed on the country for its part in the Ukraine conflict. This, in turn, has caused the ruble to weaken dramatically, further pushing up the rate of inflation.
In 2014, price growth was estimated at 11.4 percent, according to Rosstat, prompting the Russian central bank to hike interest rates to 17 percent in December in an effort to shore up the currency and push down inflation.
Although the central bank cut rates in January, the country’s economy ministry warned last month that inflation could peak between 15-17 percent on an annual basis this year.
The Moscow Times contributed reporting to this story.