CHISINAU -- The Moldovan government has banned all wheat exports until the next harvest in an effort to prevent a large increase in bread prices, RFE/RL's Moldovan Service reports.
Prime Minister Vlad Filat said the order should have been made earlier to avoid the "panic" that he said had already taken hold of the population.
Filat did not say whether he thought the export ban will calm those fears and keep bread prices at current levels. The cheapest loaf of bread now costs about 2 lei ($0.17).
Agriculture Minister Vasile Bumacov told RFE/RL earlier this week that an increase in the price of bread was "unavoidable." This and other comments caused many Moldovans to panic about possible price increases.
Bumacov said the government would try to avoid what he described as "an excessive hike" in the prices and admitted that for many poor Moldovans, even a minor rise "makes an impact on everyday life."
Officials at several grain-exporting companies have complained to RFE/RL about the move to ban wheat exports, calling it "unnecessary" and damaging to their businesses.
The likely increase in the price of bread comes as Moldovans are being asked to pay more for gas and heating after the country's main energy supplier, Russian gas giant Gazprom, increased its prices as of January 1.