Bulgaria: Sellers Upped Food Prices to Record Highs during Pandemic

Bulgaria: Sellers Upped Food Prices to Record Highs during Pandemic

While during the Covid-marked 2020 we stayed more at home and walked mainly to the refrigerator and back, it turned out that we had been eating record-expensive foods. The analysis of wholesale prices of staple groceries: sugar, flour, oil, rice and pulses scored an year-on-year increase, with the annual averages for most of them being the highest for the period 2015 - 2020.

This is the conclusion in the annual analysis for 2020 of the State Commission on Commodity Exchanges and Markets (SCCEM).

The goods in which a decrease is registered are scarcely any.

Last year rocketing prices were recorded in sausages (19.8% compared to 2019), minced meat (17.9%), rice (15.3%), oil (14.4%), cheese (13.8%), beans (12.8%), pork (10.9%), sugar (10.8%) etc. In fruits and vegetables the list is topped by apricots (56%), apples (39% compared to 2019), oranges and lemons (by 32% and 20%, respectively).

However, the price dynamics in the fruits and vegs is much more diverse and related to their seasonality. Therefore, there are a number of goods whose average price is lower than the previous year, such as onions, potatoes, pepper and cherries.

Wholesale prices are actually a function of many factors - good or bad harvest, transport costs, wages, processing complexity, gasoline prices, electricity and others, but retail prices are directly dependent on the retailers’ mark-up.

According to the analysts’ observations, the retail mark-up for foods varied on average between 4 and 39%.

The leaps vs wholesale prices in the large retail chains are greatest in eggs - 39%, followed by flour - 24%, cooking oil - 17%, and sugar - 4%. In the shop network, the largest mark-up of 33% is for eggs, in flour it is 31%, in oil - 21%, and sugar - 17%. Here is an illustrative example: a kilo of sugar in the wholesale warehouse costs an average of BGN 1.33. At the hypermarket it already costs BGN 1.38, while in the neighborhood groceries - BGN 1.56, according to the observations of the experts.

The vegetable oil, whose price rocketed because of a poorer harvest, had an average initial price at of BGN 2.22 per liter. In retail stores, the label was BGN 2.69 and up. Oil actually started climbing peaks in September and for the September-December period alone gained 25% growth.

Food prices in Bulgaria follow the trend on the world markets. At the end of 2020, the global food market recorded peak values for the last three years, SCCEM said. However, they still remain below the level of 2011.

The spike in international prices is observed in all food groups, and the COVID-19 pandemic has an impact on this.

We are looking for better quality goods

In the coming year, another trend was clearly noticed. The Bulgarian consumer has started to shop for better quality food products, according to the committee. This new pattern of consumer behavior can be explained by the fact that we barely spent money on non-food goods and travel in 2020. The other likely scenario is that we are more concerned about our health and are looking for all sorts of ways to prevent the disease with a better diet.

Only 30% of meat on the Bulgarian market is imported

In 2020, the supply of food products from imports prevailed on our market, the Commission said. This was particularly pronounced in vegetables, fruits and some meats. However, in the last few years there have been nascent positive trends in terms of production and supply of Bulgarian products.

The survey, conducted in the country between January and October 2020, shows that 73% of the goods in the category "Bread and bakery products" are home production. In the category "Meat and meat products" the presence of local producers averages 70%. In the section "Milk and dairy products" the share of Bulgarian goods is 69%, which is 5% more than in the previous year.

In the case of fruits and vegetables, imported goods prevail, which is mainly related to the seasonality of fruits and vegetables, droughts, torrential rains and other specifics of the local climate, on which the quantity and quality of the harvest depends to a large extent. It is indicative that in the summer the share of Bulgarian fruits and vegetables grows, exceeding 70%, and in winter the percentage share of imported products from this group increases.

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