Hungary, a small country in the southeast of Europe, has the highest inflation rate among all the states of the European Union. According to Eurostat, in November 2022, the annual level of inflation reached 23.1%, compared to 21.7% in October and 20.7% in September.
As a result of the ever-higher price of products, the budget of most families is not sufficient for a satisfactory standard of living, according to some reports in the international press.
A plan designed to protect Hungarian consumers from the highest rate of inflation in the European Union has backfired.
In this context, even before the holidays, retailers began to rationalize food products, a reminiscence of the communist period, reports Bloomberg, according to Agerpres.
After the government led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban decided to cap the prices of basic food products, the retailer Aldi decided to introduce a limit of one kilogram of potatoes and one liter of milk per customer, as a result of the increase in demand.
Other store chains such as Spar, Lidl and Tesco have introduced similar restrictions. Under these conditions, some people began to ask themselves questions about whether they will be able to cook the traditional poppy seed roll, which is a must on holiday tables.
“I came here because my neighbor told me that there is milk now. It usually isn’t and I haven’t seen any eggs in a while. I don’t know how I will be able to cook for Christmas”, says Magdolna, aged 67, who was shopping at an Aldi store in Budapest.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s efforts to cap food prices are part of a broader program to cap costs on a wide range of products from fuel to mortgages. The aim was to help Hungarians cope with Europe’s worst cost-of-living crisis.
But the National Bank of Hungary (NBH) says these measures have had the opposite effect, leading to empty shelves and price hikes in one of the world’s most open economies.
Most likely, these data will force the central bank to significantly increase the inflation forecast, at the monetary policy meeting on Tuesday, at which the reference interest rate would be maintained at 13%. The real interest is already at 18%, after the emergency increase adopted in October.
The desperate situation makes many individuals steal from stores. According to euronews.ro, the number of food thefts from stores has increased in Hungary, by 22%, as the police say. It is one of the effects of inflation in Hungary, where life is increasingly expensive. Thieves no longer steal expensive liquor or cigarettes, but salami or vegetables.
Although surveillance cameras are installed in all supermarkets in Hungary, the number of thieves is increasing. According to the Hungarian police, in the first ten months of the year there were 8,000 thefts, which is an average of about 25 thefts per day. Compared to the same period last year, the increase is over 20%.
Until the crisis, in particular, household appliances and expensive drinks were stolen. Now, thieves steal salamis, cheeses, fruits and vegetables. The increase in the price of food products could be an explanation. The price of meat increased by 40%, and that of dairy products by 75%.
The representative of the largest supermarket chain claims that shoplifters have become even more aggressive. Some threaten security guards and scare away shoppers.
“It’s becoming more and more common for the perpetrator to pull out a knife and start fighting with security staff,” says Attila Fodor, a spokesman for a supermarket chain in Hungary.
Big stores have installed more surveillance cameras and hired more security guards. Market sellers do not have such possibilities. Shopkeepers are always on the lookout for shoplifters.
In some stores, sellers publish photos of those caught stealing. The pictures are pasted on a “wall of shame” in an attempt to deter thieves.