VEGETABLES 22% MORE EXPENSIVE THIS YEAR
The average Bulgarian will consume this year 13 kg of tomatoes, agricultural experts pre-estimate. This is 32% less than in 2003 and is due to two major factors - shrank output and higher prices. Production in 2003 totalled 428,000 tons (greenhouse and garden tomatoes), while this year's harvest is not expected to be more than 250,000 tons. That's where problems on the market come from, dealers say. According to them, back in winter cropped fields decreased, which resulted in a hike above the projected prices. That is one of the reasons for prices to remain higher than last year till October - the end of the active fresh vegetables' season. Tomatoes, which are widely grown in this country from July till end-September, have registered the most obvious price increase. According to experts of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, their retail prices in the period will remain within BGN0.90-1.80/kg. In 2003 the average market price of tomatoes was BGN0.68/kg, and in 2002 it was BGN0.95/kg. The hike began with the tomatoes from greenhouses, although only fuel prices influence significantly the costs for their production. In the January-June 2004 period the price was BGN1,230/ton, up from BGN1,100/ton in 2003. This trend influenced Bulgaria's export as well. Last year the country traded abroad 120 tons of greenhouse tomatoes, mostly in the European Union and Russia, while in January-May 2004 exports totalled 42 tons, and according to projections the aggregate amount will reach the modest 60 tons. Not only export of garden and greenhouse tomatoes has declined, but also export of sterilized products. The quantity sold abroad is pre-estimated at about 1,000 tons, down from 2,300 tons in 2003. A similar situation can be observed regarding another summer vegetable - peppers. Consumption of that culture has dropped to 8 kg per capital, down from 10 kg a year earlier. Retail prices are 18% higher than in 2003 and this percentage could even rise by October. Some 145,000 tons of peppers for immediate consumption will be produced by the end of the season. Cropped areas are less, producers claim, and unfavourable climatic conditions in May and June have practically decreased the expected yield to the above-mentioned 145,000 tons, down from 208,000 tons in 2003.