The SETimes Podcast – September 27th, 2012

27/09/2012

Food prices in the Balkans take a new hike after the summer. Biljana Lajmanovska reports for Southeast European Times in Skopje.

Food staples such as bread, cooking oil, and eggs reached record highs in September as the summer drought and the rising cost of food on world markets took its toll on the Balkans.

At the Skopje market citizens are buying mostly vegetables and fruit in preparation for the winter, but say that prices are now much higher than in 2011, and they will not be able to prepare traditional winter dishes.

Audio 2, Two market buyers expressed their worries.

"[A rise] from 1.2 euros to 1.7 euros for cooking oil --that's far more than the announced 10 percent raise. I think this increase will only lead to more misery. … I have problems to cope with this; heating prices are up, electricity is up, the food, all essential products are going up. Meat products are more expensive by 30 percent. It is difficult to get through. I worry; we are two pensioners at home and none of the other family is working."

Market sellers admit the prices have gone up this autumn, but as a result of increase in food prices on the world markets.

The drought in the US and Canada has caused lower corn and soya bean production this year, and the lower production in Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan, causing wheat grain price to go up, the Macedonian market sellers said.

Jordan Iliev, 55, has been selling eggs at the Skopje market for years. He said he is forced to raise prices this month, expecting more soon.

"There is a huge increase of staples. For example, our farm bought feeding corn yesterday at a price of 0.303 euros for a kilogram, which is an enormously high. In the supermarkets the prices of eggs are even higher than here, on the green market. And we'll probably see additional increases."

Ljupco Dimovski, the Macedonian Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Supply, told SETimes that the government is closely monitoring price increase of food staples and is preparing measures to ease off the price shock.

In order to prevent higher bread prices, the government authorised full liberalisation of cheaper wheat grain imports. Earlier, wheat grain in Macedonia was conditioned by home grown wheat buy-outs. Steady increase of energy cost is causing an inevitable raise of food prices, explained Dimovski.

"Macedonia is not an isolated island. The country is part of world economy and market, and it is to be expected that global price increase will reflect on our domestic market. The government is here to intervene with certain measures and stop this increasing [price] trend, or neutralise its effect."

Some citizens are not prepared to wait for government measures. They demand urgent action to prevent the declining living standard. A group of citizens from the NGO Аman! [We've had enough!] gather in protest every Tuesday, throughout Macedonia, to protest the steady price increase. The protests started as a reaction to higher electricity, fuel and heating cost.

Aman's Zorica Dimovska spoke to SETimes.

"Together we should show that we can't take this increase, and that we reached the limit in making ends meet, we're at the edge of losing our dignity."

Food prices on the world market jumped by an average of 10 percent from June to July, according to the latest World Bank data. Macedonian Statistics Agency published September data showing that food prices in August, compared to the same month last year, increased by 2.8 percent. The prices of fruit, vegetables, meat, and fish were hit hardest.