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Why did Russia just destroy a BMW racing team’s food?

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The artificial creation of food shortages will continue till morale improves...Photograph by AFP/Getty Images

Whatever the strains of life under sanctions, you can’t say that it’s caused Russia’s bureaucrats to lose their flair for PR.

The national watchdog for consumer safety, Rospotrebnadzor, Thursday swooped on a touring BMW racing car team, seizing and destroying 1.5 tons of food it had brought with it while preparing for a race in Moscow next week.

It’s the latest in a series of high-profile actions to enforce a ban imposed last year on U.S. and E.U. food imports, a campaign which has angered many in a country which doesn’t produce enough food to feed itself and where over 10% of the people live in poverty. The sight of tons of cheese being bulldozed into the ground, or pork being incinerated, was intended to have a morale-boosting effect, but one opinion poll suggested that nearly half of those who responded disagreed with it.

 

Russia’s food industry has been one of few sectors to increase production this year as the government has bet heavily on a program of ‘import substitution’, but it hasn’t managed to fill the gaps in food supply left by the sanctions. Food prices rose 20% in the year to July, according to official data, and the price of goods imported from non-sanctioned countries looks set to rise again after the ruble’s slide on the foreign exchange markets in recent weeks.

The recent fall in oil prices has driven the ruble back to near a 17-year low against the dollar.

 

Rospotrebnadzor’s action against the BMW DTM team (DTM is a touring car championship akin to NASCAR) was, to say the least, a fair cop, at least by their own lights. Despite the sanctions being in place for over a year, the Germans made no effort to arrange alternative supplies locally. The question is now–will BMW blame the Cherkizovo Bratwurst if its drivers come up short at the weekend’s races?