Why are people in Germany clearing out supermarket shelves?

Have you noticed empty shelves in your local shop? People in Germany are panic buying over worries about Russia’s war in Ukraine. But supermarkets have urged customers to calm down and scale back their stockpiling.

A person using cooking oil. People in Germany have been panic buying cooking oil and other items, resulting in partial shortages. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Annette Riedl
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Perhaps you’ve come across the oil aisle in a shop and found slim pickings, or worse: nothing left. Or you’ve seen a note or heard an announcement on the supermarket’s loudspeaker urging customers to only buy enough for their household.

This is because customers across Germany have been panic buying certain items over worries about food shortages during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

“It’s almost as bad as the first lockdown,” grocery shop owner Beate Schwarz, who’s based in Mainz-Gonseheim, told German broadcaster Tagesschau.

“I don’t understand people – they buy cooking oil and flour like crazy,” she said.

Schwarz said she has not received any cooking oil from her wholesaler this week – and that’s why she has placed a handwritten cardboard sign on the empty shelf that reads: “No, there is no more oil!”

The tweet below shows a Nuremberg supermarket telling off customers for buying oil when they don’t need it. The note says: “Are you buying oil because you need it? Or are you buying oil because everyone is doing it? If everyone buys normally, bottlenecks don’t occur. Haven’t we learned anything from the past two years??”