ESMERALDA TOPI

The Albanian government established a task force aiming to monitor the prices and weights of products consumed by Albanian citizens during this period when all basked item prices are going up. Faktoje has monitored only one product, i.e. “bread” and the verification of at least 10 selling points in the capital showed that the price for a bulk bread has been increased by 10 -20 ALL and the weight is lower than 1000 gr.

Delina Ibrahimaj

20.03.2022

“No vendor should abuse with bread weights and each consumer must get what he pays for. With the assistance of the set up task force aiming to monitor prices and profit rates, we shall be very careful on monitoring both weights and good functioning of the market, in order for the consumer to get what he pays for.” – said the Minister of Finance and Economy, Mr. Delina Ibrahimaj during a visit to a bakery in Tirana on 20 March 2022.

Given such statement, Faktoje verified ten different bakeries in Tirana in order to check the price/weight ratio of bulk bread taken as a reference due to its widespread use by the population.  The bakeries were randomly selected in various parts of the capital and the purchases were associated with the tax coupon withdrawal and preservation. Once purchased, breads were immediately weighted on an electronic scale.

Picture of 10 bulk breads

As evidenced in the table below, Faktoje’s observation showed that the bulk bread price is 90 ALL in only two bakeries, whereas the other eight bakeries sell the bulk bread by 100 ALL. The weight of bulk bread at the bakeries we bought varies from 600 to 770 grams and none of the breads weigh 1000 grams.

Table with prices and weight of 10 bulk breads

In addition to bread price increase by 10-20 ALL due to flour price increase from the Russia-Ukraine conflict, citizens say that they have also noticed weight abuse. Lindita Cici said for Faktoje: “I can easily notice it’s easier as I’m buying white bulk bread only for more than 30 years now. “It’s been at least three weeks since the bread slice got smaller.”

Sulaj Bakery, Muhedin Llagami

Part of our observation was even the bakery visited by the Prime Minister Edi Rama and Minister of Finance Delina Ibrahimaj. We went back to this bakery on 22 March – two days after the Prime Minister’s visit. At ‘Bukëpjekës Patria’ (Patria Bakery), the bulk bread weighed 770 gr and was sold for 100 ALL. Alma Patria, the owner of the bakery, stated for Faktoje that the bulk bread weight is dictated by the container shape she uses for baking.

Patria Bakery, Tefta Tashko Koço

“To have 1 kilogram of bread, you have to add 1100 grams of flour, as 100 grams incur loses. And, the container shapes I have do not support 1 kg.”- said for Faktoje Alma Patria, owner of the bakery in Tefta Tashko Koço Street thus justifying the weight used for the bulk bread.

Hasan Stafa of the Consumer Protection Office said for Faktoje that he is recently facing an influx of complaints from citizens regarding abuse of the bread weight. “I have received 314 complaints in four days. What is sold as 1 kg of bread does not really weighs that much,” said Hasan Stafa.

How much should the bulk bread weigh? Faktoje has managed to find a document setting the Albanian standard for wheat bread. The standard weight of bulk bread corresponds with the wheat flour bread ranging from 70-75, where the weight is set to be over 1000 grams. Unfortunately, none of the bakeries, in which we bought bulk bread, reached such weight.

General Directorate of Standardization

In addition to weight issues, the observation performed in 10 bakeries showed another problem which is the lack of information labels on the bread price, quantity and ingredients. The bakeries we observed showed only the description of the bread type and price. The weight was missing.

Meanwhile, pursuant to DCM no. 434, ON FOOD LABELLING AND CONSUMER INFORMATION, the bakeries, as other businesses, are obliged to declare what is known as mandatory data determining the price, quantity, list of ingredients, minimum durability, etc.

An example how the bread label should look like was found by Faktoje in the only chain of Italian supermarkets in Albania. However, even here the labelling information seems vague if compared to a bread label in the UK detailing the nutritional values, minimum durability, quantity, price, ingredients as well as the space dedicated to allergy information.

ENGLAND/ALBANIA

The State Inspectorate of Market Surveillance is the institution responsible for inspecting the implementation of legally binding requirements in the field of consumer protection. In a phone conversation for Faktoje.al, the Head of the Inspectorate, Mr. Lavdërim Sahitaj said that SIMS verifies whether the respective price and weight lists of each bread type is posted. When lists are missing, then business gets fined.

“We have very low fines starting from 100 to 200,000 ALL. The business pays such fine and continues working. Administrative measures would have to be amended. Oil has now a measure of 2,000,000 ALL and such measure must be imposed in order for businesses to not violate the law.” – stated Sahitaj for Faktoje. According to the data received from Faktoje to the National Business Centre, there are currently 1104 active bakeries in Tirana.

In addition to weight issues and to the lack of mandatory information, while observing the bakeries, Faktoje also faced the lack of willingness to issue the tax coupon. We went to 12 bakeries in the capital to buy 10 breads. Meanwhile, out of the ten bought breads, the seller of only one bakery associated the purchase with a coupon without asking for it, whereas in the other nine bakeries we asked for the coupon and waited for it to be printed. Ironically, we had to go to the bakery visited by the Prime Minister twice as they could not issue the coupon due to a problem with the fiscal system and the purchase was supported by this invoice.