Russian buckwheat slump sparks panic-buying in Estonia

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Russia's slumping buckwheat harvest has sparked panic-buying in Estonia among ethnic Russians who get their news from Moscow's television stations, local retailers said Tuesday.

Estonian stores said Russian-speaking customers had cleared their shelves of buckwheat -- a staple side-dish in many east European cuisines -- even though the Baltic state does not face a shortfall.

"Most of our shops all over Estonia have been without buckwheat since last week and the reason is the artificial buckwheat panic that started in Russia," Annika Vilu, marketing director of leading food chain Selver, told reporters.

Ethnic Russians make up around a quarter of Estonia's 1.3 million-strong population, and many prefer neighbouring Russia's news channels to Estonian broadcasters.

Russia's drought-hit buckwheat harvest has made headlines there, but Estonia imports its supplies from fellow Baltic state Lithuania.

Three years ago, Estonian authorities had to quash false rumours of a devaluation of the national currency, the kroon, which sparked panic euro-buying in the Russian-speaking minority.

© 2010 AFP

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