Supermarket boycott begins as Lithuanians hit back at rising prices

DELFI / Domantas Pipas

Resentment over rising prices a year and a half after Lithuania’s switch-over to the euro erupted into a social media frenzy several weeks ago when shoppers started posting price tags on food products in the country’s major supermarket chains. A photo of a cauliflower priced at €4.49 has lent the name ‘cauliflower-gate’ to the movement.

A Facebook group of around 100,000 users is calling on shoppers to boycott Lithuania’s major supermarket chains on 10-12 May.

Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius has held a meeting with government officials and industry representatives to discuss food prices. He instructed anti-trust institutions to look for possible unlawful agreements among retailers. His party, the Social Democrats, have also said they would propose VAT cuts for certain staple foods.

Public relations experts say that the boycott initiative is unlikely to affect supermarkets’ bottom-lines, since no one can tell how massive it will be and whether people would not just delay their shopping or stock up in advance.

Lithuanian farmers, who are suffering from plummeting milk prices and are asking for government subsidies, have came out in support of the initiative and are giving out free milk on Tuesday in Vilnius and Rokiškis.

Maxima, the biggest supermarket chain in the country, said last week the boycott initiative was directed against Lithuania’s economy and is orchestrated from Russia. The statement attracted some ridicule, however, and it later gave up plans to ask the State Security Department to investigate the matter.

Prime Minister Butkevičius said on Tuesday that retailers “should ask themselves if their appetites aren’t too big,” but was sceptical about calls to boycott retail chains.

“I think retailers should first look at themselves to solve this issue and ask themselves if their appetites aren’t too big,” he said on LRT Radio.

“People can organize protest actions, provided that they are peaceful. They have the right of choice in a democratic country. But I don’t think this will bring any major results. In think this is, first of all, a matter of retailers’ conscience,” Butkevičius said.

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