Reporter Jessica Golloher reports from Moscow on how shoppers there are dealing with hugely inflated prices for basic groceries.
This text below is a phonetic transcript of a radio story broadcast by PRI's THE WORLD. It has been created on deadline by a contractor for PRI. The transcript is included here to facilitate internet searches for audio content. Please report any transcribing errors to email@example.com. This transcript may not be in its final form, and it may be updated. Please be aware that the authoritative record of material distributed by PRI's THE WORLD is the program audio.
LISA MULLINS: Russia is also facing enormous economic challenges. The ruble is sinking, unemployment is rising, and the price of food is going through the roof. Moscow is considered one of the most expensive cities in the world. Correspondent Jessica Golloher recently went food shopping with a Moscow resident.
JESSICA GOLLOHER: Tanya Stukalova stands with her glasses perched on the end of her nose, ready for battle. Her first stop: the produce section.
TANYA STUKALOVA: For example, here the lettuce, ruggalah, it is very small package. It's not enough even for one salad. And it is like $3 dollars.
GOLLOHER: Stukalova continues to inspect the veggies here at the Yellesevksy Supermarket in Moscow.
STUKALOVA: Like broccoli, it's like small package of broccoli costs more than $3 dollars. It will be a very small portion after you boil it or like cook it.
GOLLOHER: Stukalova looks disgusted as she puts the broccoli down and moves on to the cheese section. She calculates by the gram how much a hunk of cheese might cost her.
STUKALOVA: I buy very small package, which is maybe 100 grams or less. Oh, I may not going to take it because it is very expensive. It is 240 rubles for 100 grams. It means it is like for the kilo it is almost $100 dollars.
GOLLOHER: Or about $45 dollars a pound. The sticker shock seems even greater when you consider the average wage in Russia is about $650 a month. And that's if you have a job. The official unemployment rate is nearly eight percent â€“ but many think the real figure is much higher.
Irina Grieb is one of the casualties. She lost her job as a translator six months ago. She's getting scared, not to mention angry.
IRINA GRIEB: It's unbelievable. I cannot afford to eat. I am from Vladivostok. I came here to work. Yes, it's very expensive. I could shop when I had a job, and now what am I going to do? Everything costs five times more than it should.
GOLLOHER: It's not just jobless figures. Russia's inflation rate is expected to climb to 14 percent this year. Still, President Dimitri Medvedev says Russia is in reasonable financial health.
Despite the assurances, confidence in the government is waning, according to the public opinion research Institute Levada Center, half the population worries the government can't control inflation and job losses. Back at the Yellesevksy Supermarket, bargain shopper Tanya Stukalova says she's tired of struggling to make ends meet. But she knows she's luckier than many others. She at least has a job as a television producer that pays the bills.
STUKALOVA: It's a mystery how people survive if they do not have other options. Of course they do not buy tomatoes or cucumbers. They simply live on potatoes and carrots.
GOLLOHER: In fact, potatoes and cabbages are just what the government is prescribing. Russia's Federal Consumer Protection Service is now promoting what it calls a crisis diet. Health officials bill it as a return to a healthy way of eating, and they say it would only cost the average Russian about $77 dollars a month. For The World, I'm Jessica Golloher in Moscow.