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Potato index belies economists’ gloom

The Russian population is increasingly confident about the future. The country is enjoying trade and budget surpluses. Economists, though, fret about the implications of high inflation, while growth depends heavily on continued high oil prices and a sound debt repayment strategy.

An improving economy means fewer Russians
have to depend on their own potato crop

There's good news for the Russian economy: potato planting is down and birth rates are up for the first time in 10 years.

These are not widely quoted economic indicators, but both reflect a big change in mood among Russians. Potatoes have always been insurance against hard times. As the Soviet government gave nearly everyone a plot of land to build a dacha - a summer house - most people also plant fruit and vegetables to see them through periods of scarcity. Fully half of Russia's agricultural production comes from dachas. If people are planting fewer potatoes it means they are more confident about the future.

As well as encouraging potato planting, economic chaos depressed male life expectancy to catastrophic levels; the average man is still lucky to get to 60.

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