VEGETABLE PRICES UP BECAUSE OF IMPORT CUSTOMS DUTIES
The prices of greenhouse cucumbers and tomatoes have been unpredictably changing in May. They rose unexplainably around the holidays (May 1-6) and went down slowly afterwards. The situation gave rise to various comments - ranging from the existence of a cartel agreement between importers and dealers, to pressure exerted from interested firms on traders who wanted to sell their goods cheaper. There has been no forceful influence on the prices, dealers from the Slatina wholesale market in Sofia are adamant. We have to sell mostly imported goods, because they are cheaper and retailers prefer them. Moreover, the Bulgarian greenhouse output is not sufficient to satisy the market. For years on end domestic greenhouses have been unable to compete with imported commodities due to the expensive fuel for heating, while in neighbour countries the climate is more benign (tomatoes are imported mainly from Greece and Syria, and cucumbers - from Greece and Turkey). Thus, prices of domestically-grown and imported vegetables differ significantly, and production in Bugaria is limited, although we are able to fully satisfy the needs of the domestic market and export our products as well, a greenhouse owner from Purvomai notes. But how could local vegetable-growers stake on a higher output, having in mind that imported products are BGN0.40-0.50/kg cheaper than the Bulgarian ones, at that when customs duties and transport expenses are duely paid?Retail prices of tomatoes in May ranged between BGN2.60-3.00/kg, and cucumbers could be had at BGN1.00-1.60/kg. Wholesale prices of imported tomatoes averaged BGN1.80-2.10/kg, vs. BGN1.90-2.60/kg for the Bulgarian products. Turkish cucumbers were offered at BGN0.60-0.70/kg on the wholesale markets, down from BGN1.05-1.20/kg for the domestically-grown vegetable. However, this price margin practically disappears in the retail trade, and the Made in Bulgaria label can be often seen in the stores and on market stalls. Buyers prefer Bulgarian vegetables, and most of the wholesale dealers declare readiness to purchase from domestic suppliers if they could satisfy demand and the price margin between imported and domestic products decreases. Fruit prices did not offer any surprises in May. Strawberries appeared on the market at comparatively low prices - BGN2.80-2.00/kg, because that fruit is perishable and the heavy rains guarantee a rich crop. Strawberries are imported from Greece as well (mostly larger-sized varieties), but Bulgarian fruit predominates. Both producers and importers prefer to sell their goods for sure even at lower prices, rather than offer them at higher prices an lower demand. Therefore, as of May 19-20 the strawberries were already going at retail prices of BGN2.20-2.60/kg and at wholesale price of BGN2.00/kg. Individual batches, mainly imported larger-sized varieties, were offered at BGN2.80-3.00/kg for several days, but by May 27 they also cheapened and reached the average prices. With the heavy rainfalls last year Bulgarian strawberries were also cheap, traders recalled. There were periods when they could be had at BGN1.00-1.20/kg (retail prices).Things are different regarding cherries. They have maintained high prices of BGN3.00-3.50/kg ten days after appearing on the market, and there is no import. But with the increase of supply their prices will tangibly go down, and at the height of the cherry season in June their retail prices are expected to go down to BGN0.80-1.00/kg. However, rainfalls could make their gathering more difficult and worsen the quality of the fruit as well.