Friday, 17 February 2023

Wholesale Costs Higher as Croatian Food Prices Continue to Cause Issues

February the 17th, 2023 - Croatian food prices have been causing issues for some time now, partly due to inflation and partly due to the introduction of the euro as the country's official currency on the first day of 2023. There have been a lot of ups and downs, and wholesale prices have increased quite significantly indeed.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, when compared to back in January 2022, the prices of bananas, tomatoes, onions, carrots and potatoes rose the most across the country, and over the last two years, the highest price growth was for potatoes and onions. Wholesale prices grew considerably in comparison to January 2021, with potato prices shooting up by 120 percent and onion prices by 77 percent, said Agriculture Minister Marija Vuckovic.

When it comes to grains and oilseeds, compared to the end of 2022, there's either been price stagnation or a slight decline in the most important grains in wholesale - wheat by nine percent, and corn by 15.5 percent. Compared to the year before (January 2022/January 2023), the prices of wheat are higher by 11.11 percent and corn by 12 percent, while the prices of soybeans are now lower by 4.76 percent.

The wholesale prices of flour in the fifth week of 2023 have been higher compared to what they were back at end of 2022, and for smooth (finely ground) flour by 1.89 percent, and for hard flour by 14.75 percent.

''During January and the beginning of February 2023, the purchase prices of pork and beef did not differ significantly from what they were back at the end of 2022,'' Vuckovic said, adding that ''in the fifth week of this year, the wholesale price of beef was higher by 15.09 percent when compared to one year before, and approximately the same compared to the end of 2022, while the purchase price of pork has been 50.36 percent higher on an annual basis.''

If the wholesale prices in the fifth week of this year are compared with the EU average, it can be said that the wholesale price of beef is lower by 4.31 percent, while that of pork is almost identical. The prices of lamb are slightly higher, while the prices of chicken are decreasing and according to the EU average, they're now lower by 1.15 percent in the fifth week of this year.

The highest growth when it comes to Croatian food prices, as Vuckovic said, has been recorded in the wholesale price of eggs and those prices have been altering continuously since back in March/April 2022 and are currently at record high levels.

In the fifth week of this year, the wholesale price of A-class eggs is lower by 1.05 percent compared to the last week of 2022, and significantly higher compared to the year before, she said, noting that Croatian wholesale egg prices are otherwise higher than the EU average.

For more on Croatian food prices and inflation, make sure to check out our dedicated news section.

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

Meat Becoming Luxury Croatian Item - Here Are The Main Reasons

November the 23rd, 2022 - The price of meat has shot up across Croatia, and this Croatian item is edging closer and closer to becoming somewhat of a luxury product. Here are the main reasons why.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the ongoing global crisis and bad domestic policy decisions led to a weakening of domestic production and less availability of meat products to Croatian customers. The result of this set of deeply unfavourable circumstances led to a significant increase in the price of meat, which could soon become a luxury Croatian item, reports DW.

The meat industry here in the Republic of Croatia is facing ever-increasing problems, and with it so are meat consumers, who are needing to fork out ever-higher prices to purchase meat. The cost of fattening cattle up in Croatia has doubled this year, meaning the cost of production in Croatia is at the very top of the European Union (EU). The situation is worse only in the Baltic countries of Latvia and Lithuania.

At the same time, Croatian imports of pork have more than doubled since the time before Croatia joined the EU back in July 2013. With regard to the entire production chain, the sector was also affected by the closure of the Petrokemija fertiliser factory in Kutina, according to Deutsche Welle.

The cause of this situation is not only the global crisis...

"Not only is it imported, but it's also encouraged by part of the support system in agriculture, already years ago. This endangers the development, but also the very survival of domestic animal husbandry, especially when it comes to pig and cattle breeding,'' says agricultural analyst and former producer in animal husbandry and dairying, Miroslav Kovac. He warned of the poor state of domestic cultivation, along with the establishment of the internal market and the disposal of important agricultural land.

"There's no state, no system, no people, nobody that is ready to withstand the pressure of lost values ​​like what has happened here in Croatia. The domestic population of pigs and cattle has been destroyed, in the long term, obviously, by bad political decisions, without a clear goal in space and with people, most often guided by "fireman's" logic. Dependence is increasing, and the price is increasing along with it. The biggest misfortune of all is the decimation of breeders and the obliteration of their logic of development," Kovac added.

"When will we stop sawing the branch we're sitting on?"

According to Kovac's beliefs, the public's attention shifted from the need for quick solutions here in the Republic of Croatia to the problems faced by importers. In the long run, this isn't at all good for the individual, nor for the Croatian economy as a whole: "How long will it take for us to understand the logic of the functioning of organised countries in this particular segment and stop sawing the branch we're sitting on?'' he asked.

"If we continue doing what we were doing before, the prices will rise across the entire supply chain, and even faster here, and the difference in price aside from business profits will melt away. Here, however, the current practice of emergency and partial interventions costing millions at the expense of the state and EU budgets will not help us, as it has never been the case before. I emphasise the logic of the development and preservation of the domestic economy, and now it's also in the wider context of the EU, and by no means is any of this only of individual interest,'' warned Kovac.

"Croatian agricultural policies are to blame"

Kovac has previously criticised Croatian agricultural policy due to the apparent stagnation of the sector. At the same time, neighbouring EU members Slovenia and Hungary are taking a number of quality steps forward, which have raised their production to quite an enviable level. Of course, there's also a jump in prices to take into consideration, but domestic production is in much better condition, with fewer imports and costs borne by local customers.

"Having run out of raw materials from domestic sources, problems with prices will spill over to consumers, who are the ultimate payers, including the value added tax that is charged on top of everything and isn't negligible for a long time,'' explained the analyst.

The news from the Croatian agricultural sector is somewhat dramatic: this autumn, according to Eurostat, the price of chicken in Croatia rose by 35.5 percent compared to the same period last year, while the EU average stood at 26.7 percent. It must be expressed that this refers to the placement of meat in sorted categories, while the Croatian Government capped the price of a whole chicken to just 24.99 kuna, along with products in some other meat categories.

Is Croatia condemned to imports?

Overall, the price of meat has risen significantly, seeing it become closer than ever to a luxury Croatian items. As a result, demand decreases, which in turn leads to further price increases. We can't even influence some factors, for example, the import of artificial fertilisers that came from Russia. Urea from Russia was sold in Croatia at a price three times higher than it was last year, when the Croatian market still had domestic products of this type of its own. Condemned to imported goods, Croatian farmers reduced their consumption of fertilisers, and consequently their yields. Because of this, some have already given up meat production and switched to arable farming or left the sector of agriculture altogether.

What do the manufacturers think about everything?

How the situation looks from that angle was explained by one of the largest producers in all of the Republic of Croatia - the Pivac Group. Today, too, they primarily point out that, due to market disturbances, their input production costs are constantly increasing. 

"Our production has risen in price by more than 30 percent this year alone, and due to inflation and the energy crisis, the increase in input prices will be a challenge in the future as well," the president of the group, Ivica Pivac, revealed. He emphasised that, when it comes to basic raw materials, their strategic focus on their own livestock production proved correct. However, the increase in animal feed prices by more than 80 percent influenced a significant increase in costs in this segment of production as well.

Uncertain market opportunities

"Although all of our input costs have increased, we constantly strive to minimise the impact of market disruptions on our end customers. However, unfortunately it wasn't possible to avoid price corrections. Otherwise, we'd be calling the sustainability of our production and supply into question," said Pivac.

Compared to last year's prices in Pivac stores, the current price of certain cuts of pork has increased by 18 percent, and when it comes to their most popular product, prosciutto, its price has increased by 20 percent. "Uncertain market conditions make it difficult to project price movements, however, we're going to continue to do everything we can so that the increase in input costs affects our customers as little as possible,'' assured Ivica Pivac, emphasising that for his company "when planning business, the focus remains on investments in self-sufficiency, production capacities and human resources,'' but it is still not known whether this will be enough to amortise the crisis stress for consumers and stop meat becoming a luxury Croatian item which is simply not affordable to some.

For more on inflation and increases in the cost of living in Croatia, keep up with our news section.

Friday, 1 July 2022

President Talks PM, Food Prices, Abortion

ZAGREB, 1 July 2022 - President Zoran Milanović said on Friday he was sorry he did not meet Prime Minister Andrej Plenković at today's conference on the occasion of Croatian Chamber of Trades and Crafts Day, saying Plenković decided against attending when he found out that Milanović would.

Milanović said he was not competing with Plenković. "For me personally, he is zero, but he is the president of the HDZ (party), the prime minister, he won the election, he is responsible for the rampant corruption, deserving for less political radicalism in life, which he succeeded in suppressing in the HDZ because he is a communist."

Food prices, abortion

Speaking of high food prices, Milanović said they were a consequence of the war in Ukraine and that the government could do nothing about it. As for the vouchers announced by the government, he said it was copying Austria.

The president said it was not realistic for abortion rights to be entered into the Constitution, as demanded by the Social Democratic Party and the Green-Left Bloc.

When it comes to abortion, he said "we've had this issue solved in an appropriate way almost 50 years now," better than the Americans who, he said, have been waging a cultural war since 1973.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Opposition Says VAT Cuts Welcome, but Late

ZAGREB, 17 March 2022 - The government's proposal to cut VAT on food and gas is welcome but late and insufficient, the parliamentary opposition said on Thursday, while the ruling HDZ said the cut was timely and that it would help citizens weather the price rises.

"The government's proposal is going in the right direction, but the fact is that it's late and it's not enough," Social Democratic Party president Peđa Grbin said ahead of a debate on amendments to the VAT Act whereby the government wishes to buffer the energy price hikes and protect living standards and the economy.

Grbin said the government should introduce other measures, too, and asked what it was doing to ensure incentives for enterprises so they could work in these crisis times.

Marijan Pavliček of the Sovereignists said they mostly agreed with the government's measures but asked why the amendments to the VAT Act did not go into force on 1 March.

"This blow is unbearable and the government should have reacted much sooner and much stronger," Nikola Grmoja of Bridge said, calling on the government to further cut excises on fuel.

Stephen Bartulica of the Homeland Movement said this was too little too late and that the government reacted only when it absolutely had to.

Marin Lertoić of the Istrian Democratic Party said they supported any relief of households and businesses.

Grozdana Perić of the HDZ said these amendments would help citizens weather the energy price hikes and that over the past six years the government had found solutions to crises and stabilised public finance.

The opposition fears that the VAT cuts on key foodstuffs and gas will not result in lower food prices.

Davor Bernardić of the Social Democrats said that when VAT was cut in 2018, food became more expensive.

He said foreign retail chains would have discounts for a week and then prices would soar, adding that Finance Minister Zdravko Marić would be responsible for millions of kuna ending in the pockets of foreign retailers, just as it was in 2018.

The government has proposed reducing VAT from 25% and 13% to 5% on children's food, edible oils and fats, butter and margarine, live animals, fresh meat and fish, vegetables, fruit, eggs, seedlings, fertilisers and pesticides, fodder for animals, and tickets for concerts, sporting and cultural events.

The government also proposed a 13% VAT rate on natural gas supplies and heating from power stations, firewood, and menstrual products, among other things, and a 5% VAT rate on natural gas deliveries from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023.

The VAT cuts are estimated at HRK 2.1 billion.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 27 February 2022

Croatian Food Prices Increase by Three Percent in Just One Month

February the 27th, 2022 - There has been a concerning three percent increase for Croatian food prices, which also regards certain drinks, in the space of just one single month. What's going to unfold as this situation continues is worrying for many.

As Novac/Jutarnji/Marina Klepo writes, back in January 2022, inflation accelerated further, to 5.7 percent when compared to the same month last year, while it was 0.3 percent on a monthly basis, according to the CBS. As such, the December (2021) record of 5.5 percent was exceeded and inflation reached its highest levels in Croatia since way back in October 2008. As was the case in previous months, the rise in prices is led by energy and food.

Pressure on Croatian food prices began back in the middle of last year due to developments on global markets, and partly due to unfavourable conditions here on the domestic market. In January, food and non-alcoholic beverages were as much as 9.4 percent more expensive than they were a year ago, and in just one month, prices jumped by 2.9 percent.

As food makes up a quarter of the average Croatian consumer basket, its impact on the overall level of inflation is also significant - amounting to 2.44 percent. Accelerated growth of energy prices continued, meaning that transport, which is primarily related to fuel, recorded double-digit annual growth of 10.8 percent, with a contribution to inflation growth of 1.59 percent.

In third place is the category of furniture and home furnishings with an annual growth of five percent and a monthly growth of 1.3 percent. Prices in Croatian restaurants and hotels, on the other hand, were 4.7 percent higher back in January and 0.4 percent higher than they were in the previous month of December.

According to the harmonised consumer price index used by Eurostat, inflation here in the Republic of Croatia back in January stood at 5.5 percent. At the same time, the average for the Eurozone was 5.1 percent, and for the European Union (EU) stood at 5.6 percent. The highest inflation rates are still being recorded in the Baltic countries: Lithuania with 12.3 and Estonia with 11 percent. The lowest price growth, on the other hand, has been seen France, 3.3 percent, and in Portugal, 3.4 percent.

In order to mitigate the impact of inflation on the cost of living, the government again administratively capped the country's fuel prices in early February, and then adopted a comprehensive package of measures worth 4.8 billion kuna, which will apply from the 1st of April. All hopes were that this rapid inflation would be temporary, that prices would slow down in the second half of the year, but Russia's invasion of Ukraine throws a spanner in the works of all previous forecasts.

"Although price growth is limited by government decisions and administrative restrictions on fuel prices, given recent events in Ukraine and the escalation of the conflict, our projections for this year are exposed primarily to rising risks," said RBA analysts, who expect an average consumer price growth rate in 2022 of 3.1 percent.

However, the Croatian National Bank (CNB/HNB) has previously warned that inflation could reach 4.5 to five percent this year. As things stand, that assessment could also undergo corrections. Initial estimates by global think tanks suggest that the key effects of the war in Eastern Europe will be higher inflation and slower economic growth.

If oil prices rise to $130 a barrel in the next few weeks and European gas prices to 180 euros per cubic metre, the contribution of energy to average headline inflation could increase, instead of falling gradually as was generally previously assumed. In addition to energy, rising Croatian food prices also seem inevitable, albeit with less of an impact on overall inflation, given that Russia and Ukraine export 25 to 30 percent of the world's wheat, and Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn.

As such, in the coming months, during the second quarter, it is estimated that in developed economies, the inflation rate could be at least a fifth higher than previously calculated and exceed six percent. However, according to Global Economics analysts, inflation should fall once again later in the year, partly due to base effects, but average inflation levels in developed economies, they estimate, could stay at around four percent by the end of the year.

For more on inflation and increasing Croatian food prices, check out our lifestyle section.

Friday, 28 January 2022

Food Expensive Also Due to High Trade Margins

ZAGREB, 28 Jan 2022 - Food prices in Croatia in December 2021 continued their growth that had started in July, and year-on-year they were as much as 8.1% higher, while the inflation rate was 5.5%, the highest since October 2008, when it stood at 5.9%, Večernji List says, noting that food is also expensive due to high trade margins.

At the EU level, the price of food, alcoholic beverages and tobacco was only 3.2% higher in December and inflation was 5%, which some analysts justify with a slower first wave of price growth in Croatia while in the wealthier countries, they say, prices grew at a faster rate initially.

Prices started soaring in Croatia only in the past few months, and for some products, such as cooking oil, they went up by more than 20%, which is now also happening in other EU markets with lower living standards such as the Czech Republic and Hungary, the daily says.

Croatia has never been a cheap country, notably when it comes to food, telecommunications services, various technical goods and the like, and this can also be attributed to high trade margins, says the daily.

Tax expert Vlado Brkanić has calculated that since 2010 four retail chains in Croatia have almost doubled their trade margins. In 2010 most trade margins were around 17% and in 2015 they were above 30%.

Some sector stakeholders say that high trade margins are also due to high logistic costs considering the high seasonality of some Croatian regions during several months of the tourism season. However, Martin Evačić, CEO of the NTL retail chain, who heads the retail sector of the Croatian Employers Association, claims the average trade margin in the EU is above 32% while in Croatia it is below 25%.

As for food prices, Evačić says that they are still not following producer prices that are changing on a daily basis, noting that he expects state assistance in that regard, whether through VAT reduction or abolishment, freezing prices of basic foodstuffs or vouchers, which is what some poorer EU countries are already doing, says the daily.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 30 July 2021

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric Planning to Slash VAT on Food

July the 30th, 2021 - Finance Minister Zdravko Maric has announced that he does indeed intend to slash VAT on food during a recent guest appearance on RTL Danas (Today).

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, before we take to the subject at hand, it's worth noting that Finance Minister Zdravko Maric did not accept the proposals of the National Association of Caterers on lowering VAT on beverages and respecting labour costs as a tax deduction. Let's look at precisely why didn't he satisfy this association's wishes.

"We always end up talking about VAT somehow..." stated Maric.

"It's not just a question of satisfying or not satisfying people's desires. I mean, we always end up talking about VAT whatever the topic is. I do emphasise all the time for the hospitality sector, as well as for all other activities, this government in the past and this term, despite the pandemic, has conducted several rounds of tax relief to stimulate activities, employment, the raising of wages… Of course, in the wake of all this we're continuing to work hard, and caterers always come up with this suggestion that the only exclusive variable is VAT. One of the interlocutors in this regard was the co-owner of a restaurant. Let's just sit down and demystify a few things now. So... complete accommodation in tourism, complete food and service is already at a reduced rate. We're only talking about bars here,'' Maric said.

What would those numbers look like?

"We're talking about approximately half a billion kuna. Now, looking at the data we have from the past year, it's certain that the pandemic had a significant share in the hospitality sector, however, you know that the hospitality sector has been recognised with our measures since day one. At a time when it was horizontal for all sectors, and to this day the hospitality industry is one of the few that is the recipient of measures to preserve jobs and cover fixed costs.''

There has been a lot of talk about VAT in the last term of this government as well, it was promised that the general VAT rate would be reduced. In the end, that didn't happen. Is it a topic at all anymore?

"It isn't in the government's programme at the moment. Let me remind you, there was a reduction in the income tax rate, especially for young people, you know that it all came into force and that it has already been done. Young people can testify to that, I'd also say that they were pleasantly surprised with those tax refunds. What follows, when the conditions for that are created, is written in the government's programme that the reduction of VAT will be applied to all food in general, but we'l see when and how we'll implement it,'' stated Finance Minister Zdravko Maric.

Next came the topic of the pandemic-dominated season, and we're not just talking about tourism here. Maric was asked if he was worried about the epidemiological situation and the possible sudden end of the tourist season, to which he responded:

"I think we really do all need to contribute individually to prevent that from happening. We aren't talking only about tourism here but also all other economic activities. The third quarter is generally the strongest in terms of economic activity. Very soon our children will return to school. We really have a lot of segments that we have to take care of in order to finally gain this victory over the virus and to be able to live normally again,'' Finance Minister Zdravko Maric replied.

The European Commission has now officially adopted Croatia's National Recovery and Resilience Plan. What's the next phase? When do the first funds arrive and what will they be used for?

"At the end of August, the government will authorise the signing of a financial agreement with the EU. After that, I expect a 13 percent advance in September of somewhere around 820 million euros. By the end of the year, Croatia must meet the 34 criteria it listed in the document, which is the basis for withdrawing an additional 700 million euros in the first half of next year. By the end of 2022, we need to meet the requirements that will ensure the withdrawal of 46 percent of the total envelope of money, which is very good news because it means that at the beginning of this period, we'll be able to use the most funds,'' concluded Finance Minister Zdravko Maric.

For more, follow our politics section.