The information website for monitoring the prices of some basic food products has been launched. The internet platform, which was presented by the Minister of Economy and Industry Nikola Stojanov and the Minister of Agriculture Yavor Gechev, is now available to all users at www.foodprice.bg.
‘For the first time, the data of so many institutions have been brought together in one place and the possibility has been created to monitor and store information on the food market, which has not existed in our country before,’ Minister Stojanov said. In his words, in addition to greater transparency on pricing, active work is being done on the other two areas related to regulatory changes and more effective control by the institutions. ‘We are preparing two new bills — the Food Trade Act and the Trade Margin Act. We envisage for the second law to have a limited time period, as the ceiling on surcharges will apply to a limited number of products’, said Nikola Stojanov.
Minister Stojanov gave a demonstration of the functionalities of the platform. From the data in the report it is clear that on 22 March the wholesale price of butter in Bulgaria was higher than the retail prices for the same product in France, Germany and Austria, for example. Another product that was shown was cheese. On 22 March, the retail price in shops was BGN 17.05 per kg per display, which excludes packaging costs. The wholesale price that day was about 50% lower. ‘Taking into account also that the price of the raw material was 1.04 per litre of milk, everyone can calculate for themselves where the distortion in the chain occurs,’ the Minister of Economy stressed further.
The Minister of Agriculture Yavor Gechev announced that the Regulation on the central food traceability register has already been published for public consultation. ‘The registry will enable information to be tracked at every step of the supply chain, at the wholesale level in the country, both in terms of food quality and supporting documents and prices,’ he explained.
The Minister of Agriculture announced that the state will subsidise irrigation water by 80% as financial resources have already been secured. ‘This is also a measure aimed at preventing the increase in the production prices of agricultural goods,’ Gechev said.
The www.foodprice.bg platform provides aggregated food market information — from farm gate prices of key commodities, through import values and wholesale prices, to those on the shelf in the store. Data are available both at national level and by district. It is also possible to compare prices in Bulgaria and in seven European countries.
The website is owned by the Ministry of Economy and Industry and was developed by Information Services AD.
Currently, about 30 major food products are included, but for some of them information is collected on their different packaging or characteristics (e.g. fat content of yoghurt; white and type of bread, etc.). Along with this, the system allows to track the farm gate prices of basic commodities such as milk, sunflower, etc. This provides the user with all the price formation information from raw material to final product on the shelf.
Prices of imports from third countries are collected by the Customs Agency and the National Revenue Agency provides the information on goods within the European Union. The data from the Commodity Exchange and Wholesale Markets State Commission (CEWMSC) are from registered commodity auctions in 22 districts in the country. CEWMSC prices are wholesale, weighted average based on quantity sold. Data processing and analysis is carried out using specially developed software of the State Commission.
Retail prices are aggregated from the Agri-Market Information System and provided by the Ministry of Agriculture. They are monitored weekly by region of the country, covering both large retail chains and smaller outlets. They do not include promotions in retail outlets, and the data are available both at national level and for each administrative region.
The website also provides information on the prices of 11 main food products (oil, rice, sugar, milk, yoghurt, butter, white cheese, yellow cheese, eggs, whole chilled chicken, dry milk powder) in 7 European countries. The data is provided on a weekly basis by the commercial attachés of the Ministry of Economy and Industry. The data collection is based on the SAPI [Agriculture and Market Information System] methodology to avoid discrepancies with the data for Bulgaria. The data is collected from 3 to 4 large chains, with priority given to those that also operate in Bulgaria, as well as 1 to 2 smaller outlets. The European capitals included in the monitoring are Berlin, Vienna, Paris, Bucharest, Athens, Prague and Zagreb.
All prices that users see on the site are inclusive of VAT, with additional information on the levels of tax mark-up in each of the European countries.
A ‘Control Activity’ menu has been created, which provides up-to-date information on the checks of the control bodies. Along with this, there is also a quick link for submitting a signal to each of the competent institutions — the Comission for Customer Protection, the Commission on Protection of Competition and the Bulgarian Food Safety Agency.
The state is also creating a mechanism for retailers to participate in the process of submitting information to the online platform.
Guidelines are ready to be made publicly available and work is underway to create the technical capability to display this data on the website. It is envisaged that retail chains and state-owned public enterprises with an annual turnover exceeding BGN 30 million will be able to submit information. They will provide information on a weekly basis about the lowest price on products, but without those on promotion. Sites will commit that this price will not be higher for the period declared. A special sticker is also being considered for these products to make them easier for consumers to navigate.
The information will be submitted electronically to the Ministry of Economy and Industry with an electronic signature to authenticate it. The set threshold for the turnover of legal entities will allow about 30 entities in the country to participate in this process. These are both national retail chains and smaller regional outlets.
This process is entirely voluntary and will demonstrate the willingness of outlets to participate in the whole process of making food pricing more transparent. A preliminary meeting has already been held with some of them and there has been an agreement on their part to participate in the initiative.