TALLINN - Spurred by rumors of an impending jump in the price of sugar once their country joins the European Union, Estonians have begun buying massive amounts of sugar."I cannot imagine where people are stocking all this sugar, but there is definitely sugar panic," said a Tartu-based retailer who normally sells 10 tons of sugar a day, adding that the sale of sugar has increased fourfold this year.
"People started to stock sugar after the referendum in September, and the trend continues," he said.
Some retailers said that people were not only piling up stocks of sugar but also of salt and flour. The hoarding has been particularly active in rural areas, retailers said.
"People in the countryside have less money and less information about the European Union," explained a retailer in Jogeva county.
One reason why urban residents were unlikely to join in on the cost-cutting hoarding was that they simply don't have the storage space for sugar.
Still, sugar sales in Estonia are up 30 percent from last year, and a new survey showed that the retail price of sugar could climb from the current 4.3 kroons (0.27 euro) per kilogram to 12 kroons.
Currently sugar in Estonia is relatively cheap due to the fact that European sugar producers receive subsidies for exports to non-EU countries. But once Estonia becomes a member of the union these subsidies will no longer apply.
At the same time Estonia will not be able to buy cheap sugar from Ukraine since the Baltic country has been requested to abolish its free trade agreement with Ukraine now that it will become a EU member. (See adjoining story on this page.)