Cooking oil becomes scarce in some German stores

Shelves of some German retailers are short of cooking oil, especially sunflower oil, as a consequence of the war in Ukraine.

© Jordan Cormack

The supply of sunflower oil has been difficult in Germany recently. Meanwhile, there has been an increase in demand for cooking oil by German consumers, mainly in sunflower oil but also in rapeseed and olive oil.

As a consequence, the supermarket chain Aldi has started rationing cooking oil to two liters per household, according to Focus. Cooking oil at Lidl is also reportedly sold out. However, in Lidl Portugal, the branch didn’t report any issue, even considering the increased demand was more likely due to solidarity towards Ukrainians rather than panic buys or supply shortage.

But Germany isn’t the only country facing difficulties as Portugal and Spain are actually experiencing rations of cooking oil because of increased demand for sunflower oil.

The reason mostly lies in the fact that Ukraine and Russia are the two largest exporters of sunflower oil in the world.

Ukraine exported 5.5 million tonnes of sunflower oil in 2019 and 6.9Mt in 2020 according to FAO estimates. It alone accounted for 40% and 44% of the world’s total export quantity. The second largest exporter is Russia with more than 20% of sunflower oil exports. These two countries account for almost two thirds of the world’s export volume of sunflower oil since at least 2015.

Although Ukraine has 5 years of sunflower oil supply according to the Ministry of Agrarian policy and food, it has restricted exports of sunflower oil with the need for a license. It also banned beef, sugar, salt, and wheat to avoid a “humanitarian crisis”. Trade with Russia is heavily restricted by international sanctions, too.

Moreover, seed planting in Ukraine usually takes place during spring and the ongoing conflict may affect future production. Ukraine on March 12 banned the export of fertilizers to increase its production as much as possible.

A poor harvest last year in Canada affected the sunflower supply. The COVID-19 pandemic has also greatly affected the supply chain over the past months.

And when consumers anticipate a shortage of supply, they anticipate and tend to buy commodities to stockpile, reinforcing panic buys and supply shortages. The situation was already happening at the core of the COVID-19 pandemic when consumers feared, or experienced, supply chain disruptions.

With global price increases on food and energy and concerns about food security, several countries restrict exports of their products. Argentina banned the export of soybean oil and Indonesia further restricted exports of palm oil in March.

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