February 21. 2024. 7:18

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Bulgarian government introduces food price controls

Bulgaria will introduce a mechanism to monitor and control food prices across the entire supply chain, caretaker Prime Minister Galab Donev, after a meeting with ministers and representatives of consumer organisations on Tuesday.

The mechanism is to track pricing across the entire food supply chain from the Customs Agency through the tax authorities and will reach the supply chain, Donev announced.

“We found a difference between the prices from the manufacturer, through the retailer, to the counter in the store. And differences of 20% to 30% and more,” Donev said, adding that his government will seek “real results” in curbing food prices.

“We will not interfere with the free market. We will not violate the established rules of free competition. On the contrary, we will show unfair commercial practices so that consumers are aware of where the distortion in prices of the most necessary goods and services is,” Donev added.

Though it is not yet clear how exactly the mechanism will function, the government said it would rely on the support of consumer organisations, despite the existence of independent commissions for consumer protection and competition.

Plans to improve legislation were also presented by the caretaker government as there is no law on food trade, and a definition of unfair trade practice is lacking, Donev also said.

Previous governments had already made attempts at controlling food prices, as former economy minister and deputy prime minister Kornelia Ninova also had her go at the start of last year at tackling so-called “speculating”. She placed a board in front of the ministry that displayed the exchange prices of basic products, though this had no effect on prices.

Since the war in Ukraine, basic food prices have skyrocketed by over 50%, even though some foods, like butter, oil, cheese, milk and eggs, were already more expensive in Bulgaria than in other wealthier countries in Europe, according to an analysis by the new site mediapool.bg that reviewed Eurostat data from 2021.

And despite the recent sharp drop in energy, food prices are showing no signs of decline.

(Krassen Nikolov | EURACTIV.bg)