The warning about the increase in the price of dairy after February 15, made the rounds of social networks and media at the beginning of February. The experts were shocked by the increase of up to 37% of these products. But a verification by Faktoje in Elbasan, showed that the increase in these prices happened in December and January. These prices in the market exceed even the speculations on social networks. Suffice it to say that the price of white cheese alone, which according to the forecast was 1050, in the dairies of Elbasan is over 1300 lek per kilogram. For this phenomenon, the Consumer Office in Elbasan has not yet provided an official response.
The increase in the prices of milk by-products has become a separate challenge for Albanian families. In the first week of February, information circulated on social networks and media accompanied by a table illustrating the increase in dairy prices from 8-37% from February 15, 2023. According to information , this increase was made known to retail units by local milk processing companies.
List of prices of milk by-products before and after February 15, 2023
Regarding this situation, the Competition Authority, on the official Facebook page, on February 8, 2023 reacted by warning :
“The authority is monitoring on the ground in order to find out if this notice will be implemented in the retail market and, above all, if this behaviour is abusive and therefore in violation of law no. 9121/2003 “On the protection of competition” .
Law no. 9121/2003 “On the protection of competition” prohibits all agreements that have as their object or as a consequence the obstruction, limitation or distortion of competition in the market, especially agreements that directly or indirectly determine purchase or sale prices, limit or control production, share markets or sources of supply or set trading terms.
We remind milk processing enterprises that the violation of the law “On the protection of competition” constitutes an administrative misdemeanour and is sanctioned with a fine, in the amount of up to 10 percent of the turnover of the previous financial year of the enterprises involved in illegal agreements. ”
Facebook announcement of the Competition Authority, 8 February 2023
But what is happening with the prices of dairy products in Elbasan?
We did an on-site verification at several points of sale before and after February 15, 2023.
What we noticed was that before February 15 the prices of these products were even higher than those suggested in the table above.
For example, if the table showed that the price of sheep’s cheese (per bucket) would increase from 850 to 1050, in a dairy in Elbasan, sheep’s cheese was not found below the price of 1300 lek per kilogram.
Sheep and goat cheese prices in a dairy in Elbasan, February 2023
The prices of kačkavall cheese and butter in a dairy in Elbasan, February 2023
Traders of retail units in Elbasan told Faktoje that dairy prices have increased from time to time, exceeding those predicted in the table that circulated at the beginning of February, as an increase requested by large milk processing companies.
“Our prices have not changed, as we sell cheese from large companies. But the prices have changed several times. This is how they changed in December, in January and the increase is significant. They did not change after February 15, as they were already increased. Meanwhile, milk, yogurt and cottage cheese have changed over time and not now,” a dairy seller in Elbasan told Faktoje.
A kilogram of goat’s or sheep’s cheese, which should have cost 850 to 870 lek according to the table above, turns out to be much higher in the market, higher even than what was the forecast after February 15. Thus, a kilogram of the same cheese goes from 1100 to 1300 lek per kilogram.
Increased prices of dairy, beyond the forecasts, are observed at different points, depending on the origin of the milk by-products. The growth is mainly seen in goat cheese, sheep and butter. Cow’s cheese has experienced less price increases.
The sellers justify this price increase with the fact that there are no more cattle in Albania in large numbers, the increase in the cost of transportation, etc. But how have the citizens of Elbasan reacted to this increase in price?
People buy less and complain about quality
Arjana, a saleswoman in one of the city’s shops in Elbasan, says that people are buying less and less.
“Those who used to buy a kilogram now buy half a kilogram of cheese, those who bought a litre of milk now get half and the same applies to other things. People complain, but it’s not our fault. I am a seller and cannot control the prices. Customers are also looking for quality things that have almost disappeared. We used to get Saranda cheese and now we can no longer afford it, as it much more expensive than before. There is no more quality!”
Ademi is retired and while doing his weekly shopping, he says that dairy prices have skyrocketed.
“These are mixed, they have no quality and they know it well, but we will still buy, what can we do. We have to feed ourselves. I buy yogurt, but when it comes to cheese, I try to find cheese from the villagers. A kilogram of butter is now sold for 15 thousand old lek. White cheese is now as expensive as kackaval once was. I don’t know where these prices will go, but we buy less. I used to buy milk from the village, but there is none now. There are no more cows now, nothing genuine. Now they are both mixed and expensive. We will always get less”.
Vjollca Cani bought half a kilo of cow’s cheese, some goat’s cheese, a bottle of yogurt and a bottle of milk.
“I spent 2,000 ALL on so few things, I have doubts about the quality. Where do we get the salary to do all the shopping! Money is so useless, but we are forced to buy, we have no choice. The state must step in and protect vulnerable people. Today, people are eating badly and this happens because of the increase in prices and the loss of quality”.
Based on the citizens’ complaints and the increased prices even more than the forecast in the table that the Competition Authority itself admitted was circulating, we addressed a request for information to the consumer office in Elbasan municipality. We asked to know if the milk trading points were monitored and if measures were taken in case of abusive growth.
Request for information sent to Elbasan Consumer Protection Office
Until the publication of this article, the Elbasan Consumer Protection Office has not replied, however we are waiting for a reply in accordance with the law on the right to information.