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Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Montenegrin consumers struggle with soaring food prices despite global trends

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Although global food prices dropped to their lowest level in three years in February, Montenegrin citizens do not share the same sentiment when they step out of the stores. According to interviews conducted by TVCG, there seems to be no economic justification for this, as consumers believe that retailers are taking advantage of the situation to increase their profits. This notion is supported by data showing a rise in their profits.

For individuals with average incomes, purchasing essential groceries has long been a struggle, with prices in stores seemingly changing almost daily.

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Survey respondents report that prices have surged, with everything becoming more expensive, indicating that traders are seeking to maximize profits. They emphasize that guaranteed incomes of €450 and increased pensions offer little relief.

Official statistics validate these concerns. Over the past three years, food prices have increased by 43%, especially following the wage hikes through the Europe Now program in early 2022, compounded by inflation resulting from the conflict in Ukraine.

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In just two years, prices for staple items such as eggs, Trappist cheese, bananas, apples, and potatoes have doubled, while milk has risen by nearly a euro, oil by 40 cents, rice by €1.20, and laundry detergent by almost €4.

The Union asserts that they have received reports of sudden price hikes without valid reasons.

“Prices of items have skyrocketed by 100% or more, despite no changes in inputs or items being stockpiled for months. For instance, during the heavy snowfall in Podgorica, shovels that used to cost €4-5 suddenly shot up to €45. The same applies to masks; even though they were available when the COVID crisis began, we had to pay €1 or €2 for masks that originally cost 10-20 cents,” explains Srđa Keković, president of the Free Trade Union.

While global food prices are at their lowest in three years, with inflation halved, Montenegrin citizens hardly perceive this in local stores, despite government efforts to limit prices and cap margins on nearly 500 items. This situation persists due to the presence of a trading cartel, which is evident as prices in Luxembourg, France, Belgium, and Germany are significantly lower than those in Montenegro. Additionally, the price limitation initiative has been effective, but its impact is limited due to the lack of involvement of suppliers and transporters.”

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