Germany Becoming Venezuela? Cooking Oil Disappearing from Shelves, Fries Removed from Menus


Parts of the world continue to learn just how important Ukrainian exports are.

Germans are snatching up products like sunflower oil and flour, according to I Am Expat. That’s because Ukraine is one of the world’s top producers of sunflowers, and with the war in Ukraine on, those exports have stopped.

The country is a major world supplier of all kinds of agricultural products. Its soil and climate have been compared to those of Kansas, Minnesota and North Dakota, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

It provides $7.6 billion in products to the 27 nations of the European Union every year. Its primary exports include corn, sunflower seeds, wheat, soybeans and barley.

Most of Ukraine’s productive land is in the east, more susceptible to Russian attack. And the needs of the country’s own population may cause farmers to forego export products and concentrate on feeding Ukrainians.

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The situation has created intense demand for cooking oil in Germany.

“In our branches, we are seeing increased demand, especially for sunflower oil, rapeseed oil and olive oil,” an Aldi Süd spokesperson said, according to I Am Expat.

But Germans shouldn’t worry, according to Stefanie Sabet, managing director of the German Food and Drink Industry Federation.

“In the last few weeks we have seen a rise in panic-buying,” Sabet told CGTN Europe, the English-language version of Chinese state television.

“We know about this phenomenon already from COVID-19. We consider this practice completely unfounded because the security of our food supplies is guaranteed. We currently see no cause for concern.”

Like Sabet, German supermarket companies said there was no need for panic-buying, nor for products to be rationed. There are plenty of alternatives in stock, they said.

Yet store shelves are being emptied.

Aldi and another German grocery chain, Real, said this may result in stores limiting quantities sold to customers, as was done early in the pandemic.

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Additionally, the lack of cooking oil is taking french fries off of some German restaurant menus, NDR reported. Tahir Farooq runs a burger shop in Hamburg and said his menu is “8o percent oil-based.” He said he will have to close his shop due to the oil shortage.

There are other problems. Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat and grain, and the war is expected to threaten production in upcoming harvests, CGTN reported.

Sabet said Germany needs to develop alternatives. “We are trying to ramp up regional production again to utilize farming land better and prioritizing food production over fuel,” she said.

The German woes go beyond the kitchen. The country is 60 percent dependent upon imported energy, much of it coal and natural gas from Russia, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

The war and problems with Russia are causing Germans to rethink their energy dependency. They’ve stopped flitting down the sparkling path to renewable energy and instead may return to the reliable old meanies — fossil fuels and nuclear power — to carry them through the current crisis.

“These are taboos,” said Tyson Barker, head of technology and global affairs for the German Council of Foreign Relations. “But in these extraordinary circumstances they’re playing a very pragmatic role in saying, ‘OK, we’ve got to do this even if that goes against our core principles temporarily.'”

Later, Germans hope, they can get the good fairies to return with windmills, solar panels and electric cars. Then the nation can side with the angels and save the planet. Or something.

In the meantime, Germans face turning off their lights and turning up their thermostats this summer.

“We all have to sacrifice,” said environmentalist Russel Honoré, a retired lieutenant general of the U.S. Army, according to the Monitor. “We’re in a war whether we accept it or not. We can’t continue to operate like this war isn’t going on.”

So it’s crisis time.

And even if the Ukraine war doesn’t drag on, it looks like Germans may be giving up more than french fries.

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Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.
Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.