29 October 2022
‘Locally produced milk and meat has been a thing of the past in Bulgaria for a long time […] More than 80% of the food in local stores is imported.’
This is what the leader of Vazrazhdane, a political party represented in the Bulgarian parliament, claimed during a guest appearance on the program Benovska Asks on Radio K2.
Kostadinov made the same claim earlier in Burgas at a meeting held in the context of the party’s election campaign in September 2022.
Factcheck.bg asked four Bulgarian institutions whether they have data and analyses on the ratio between domestic and imported foods on the Bulgarian market — the National Statistical Institute (NSI), the Bulgarian Industrial Association (BIA), the Ministry of Agriculture and the State Commission for Commodity Exchanges and Marketplaces (SCCEM). At the time of publishing this article, the NSI, BIA and SCEM had responded to our questions.
The reply we received from the NSI it becomes clear that the institution does not keep disaggregated statistics on the share of imported food products on the domestic market.
‘We have detailed data on imports and exports, but not on all imports to the Bulgarian market. A significant share of imports is intended for re-export or comprises raw materials and other products, the NSI stated in its reply.
The BIA also says it does not keep statistics of this kind.
The SCEM keeps monthly and annual statistics for the ‘Fruits and Vegetables’ category, and occasionally the organization’s annual newsletter provides data on other major categories of food products as well. However, statistics on the total share of imported goods from the totality of all food products is not available.
The introduction of SCCEM’s annual newsletter of 2020 contains several paragraphs that refer to imported food products on the Bulgarian market.
According to a survey conducted by the SCCEM between January and October 2020, which is cited in the newsletter, 73 % of the goods in the ‘Bread and bakery products’ category are domestic. Production in the ‘Meat and meat products” category is also predominantly local (70 % on average). In the case of milk and dairy products, the share of local goods is 69 %, which is 5 % more compared to 2019, according to SCCEM data.
The bulletin noted that in the fruits and vegetables category imported goods prevail, and this is explained by the seasonal character of the products concerned, as well as weather conditions on which the quantity and quality of the Bulgarian harvest depend.
‘Importantly, in summer the share of Bulgarian fruits and vegetables increases, exceeding 70 % of the total quantities sold on the market, while in winter the percentage of imported products from this group rises,’ the newsletter concludes.
In its 2021 annual newsletter SCCEM also included several paragraphs related to the share of imported foods on the Bulgarian market, but there is no specific data expressed in numbers, as in the 2020 newsletter.
On the website of the Ministry of Agriculture, section ‘Economic analyses’, information is disaggregated by sector. The dashboard for the ‘Fruit and vegetables’ category contains statistics measuring the share of domestic production of fruit and vegetables in domestic consumption for 2021.
It is evident that most of the products in the Fruits and Vegetables category on the Bulgarian market are largely locally produced, with only apples, peaches, tomatoes, and strawberries accounting for around or less than 50 %.
No statistical data has been published on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture in respect of other categories of food products.
What are the figures for big retail chains?
In order to expand the scope of the verification performed we also sent an enquiry to the Modern Trade Association (MTA), an organisation that brings together 13 retail chains in Bulgaria.
They sent us two surveys, conducted in 2020 and 2021 among the largest retail chains in the country, which focused on the share of Bulgarian producers on the stands of their stores.
The survey was conducted between March and October 2020 among the retail chains Billa, Kaufland, Lidl, T Market, ProMarket and Fantastico. According to the results, almost 65 % of the range in the main food categories in the stores of these chains comprised Bulgarian products.
The average share of Bulgarian commodities in each of the main food categories is as follows: 70 % in the Meat and meat products category; 73 % in the Bread and bakery products category; 44 % in the Fruits and vegetables category; and 69 % in the Milk and dairy products category.
Regarding the Meat and Meat Products category, the association’s survey noted that ‘At T Market, the veal and pork are 100 % Bulgarian, while at Fantastico, the chicken is only from Bulgaria, as is 99 % of the beef.’
Again, seasonality and weather conditions are cited as the main factors responsible for the lower average percentage of local production in the Fruit and Vegetables category. According to the survey conducted by the Modern Trade Association, the share of Bulgarian goods in this category increases significantly during the summer and even exceeds 70 % in two of the retail chains that participated in the survey.
The association reports an increase in Bulgarian products in the Milk and Dairy Products category in 2020 compared to 2019, as it also refers to the abovementioned data of the SCEM.
The SCEM survey for 2021, although conducted among three retail chains only — Billa”, Kaufland and Lidl — confirmed the data from 2020.
In the individual categories, the percentage distribution is: 83 % in the Bread and bakery products category; 72 % in the Meat and meat products category; 52 % in the Milk and dairy products category; and 56 % in the Fruits and vegetables category.
Based on the existing information provided by the State Commission for Commodity Exchanges and Auctions, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Modern Trade Association, the claim that 80 % of the food products on the Bulgarian market are not domestically produced is false. The data collected show rather an opposite trend in the ratio between domestic and imported products among the main food groups.
Factcheck.bg would like to thank Galina Karamocheva, who regularly debunks false claims related to the economy on her Facebook profile, for her contribution to this article.