This Monday the Council of Ministers issued a decree mandating grocery store chains to secure a special space and volume for goods, produced with Bulgarian raw materials until the end of 2020. The government proclaims the measure as aiding Bulgarian producers in a time of crisis but economists and supermarket chains criticized the idea from the start as restricting free trade and even harming producers. Ultimately the measure would lead to rise on prices, they assess, which might lower demand.
The fines for violating the new rule span from 5000 to 25’000 leva for first offence and from 30’000 to 50’000 for subsequent violations.
A day after the decree the association of grocery store chains published an open letter against the new rules. It sharply criticized Agriculture Minister Dessislava Taneva and expressed amazement from the decree to the point of supposing she had actively misled her colleagues. The piece of legislation, which the open letter discusses most is that grocery store chains must secure 90% of milk products be made with Bulgarian raw milk. The authors of the letter are categorical the milk produced is not nearly enough to account for the demand. This would open up large area for low-quality milk products to develop a market reach, which they would not be able to normally.
The letter suspects Minister Taneva has an ulterior motive to propose a bill, which in their view ultimately harms the supply chain, the market, the small local producers and the consumer. The authors argue that the only actor to benefit from the legislation are large-scale Bulgarian producers, leading them to suspect lobbyism.
"Whose interest is [Taneva] protecting? Is it the small local farmers' or is it the interest of a large oligarch," they wrote.
Apart from decreeing a quota for Bulgarian goods is grocery chain stores, the government has also suspended food import of non-EU countries.
This is the second instance the government has tried to implement a rule, heavily disrupting free trade. In the first set of legislation, which Parliament voted under the state of emergency on March 16, one article introduced a limit to the retail price for all goods. It stated a good cannot be sold for a price, which differs from the average price of the seller sold in the past three months. The article was one of the two vetoed by the president, and ultimately dropped.
За честна и независима журналистика
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