Katsura annually imports about 300 shipping containers of products including Eastern European juices, teas, herring, soda and sunflower seeds. He is also the exclusive US distributor for Russian Red October chocolates, made by one of the oldest confectionery manufacturers in Moscow. He said his hundreds of retail customers rushed to order goods before his 20,000-square-foot warehouse ran out. He believes he has enough inventory to fill orders for another six weeks. After that, he’s not sure what’s going to happen.
“It’s hard to understand the plan because you can’t suddenly change what people have liked for years for something else,” said Katsura, 45, who was born in Ukraine. “Of course you can get something similar in Europe, but it will be much more expensive.”
Milan Cvjeticanin has been selling European specialties to the local Eastern European and Balkan communities at the PV Euro Market in Parma, Ohio since 2004. He said almost anything you would find in a grocery store in Ukraine, Poland, Serbia or Croatia could be found at PV Euro – including canned fish and Ukrainian bread. He said about 20 percent of its inventory is imported from Russia and Ukraine and that sourcing those products won’t be the only challenge in the near future.
“The Russia-Ukraine conflict is going to amplify all of these transportation cost increases as energy prices go up.”
Cvjeticanin, who arrived in the US from Yugoslavia in 1992, said prices for imports had already risen 30 to 40 percent during the pandemic, due to shortages and problems in the supply chain. And there’s a limit to how many more raises he can handle since they’ve already eaten up his thin profit margins. He said there’s also a limit to how much he can raise prices before people stop buying.
“The average citizen is the one who will pay the highest cost,” he added. “It just breaks my heart.”