Crisis forces Russians to cut back vodka drinking

Mon Nov 24, 2008 12:17pm EST
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By Simon Shuster

MOSCOW (Reuters) - The global financial crisis has grown so bad that Russians are cutting back on vodka.

Stockpiles of Russia's national drink were six times higher at the start of the month than the same time a year ago because factories are producing vodka faster than they can sell it, an alcohol industry lobby and research group said on Monday.

"People are having to save money, including on drinks, and this is connected to the impact of the financial crisis on people's disposable incomes," Pavel Shapkin, president of the National Alcohol Association (NAA), told Reuters.

Research by his organization showed deaths from alcohol poisonings in September increased to 1,458 -- the result, it said, of some Russians turning to dangerous vodka substitutes as they try to find a cheaper way of becoming intoxicated.

Russia's economy has been among the biggest losers from the global financial crisis. Its stock markets have lost about 70 percent of their value since peaks in May, and workers have been hit by lay-offs and wage arrears.

Russians consume the equivalent of 15 liters of pure alcohol per head each year, chief public health official Gennady Onishchenko said in a newspaper interview last year.

The alcohol industry body said 8.2 million deciliters of vodka -- or more than half a liter for every one of Russia's 141 million population -- was stockpiled in shops and warehouses on November 1, a volume unprecedented in modern Russia.

In further evidence of the impact of the crisis, separate research by TsIFFRA, an industry analytics firm, showed alcohol production dropped 15 percent in October due to poor demand.   Continued...