Отклонения, лирически и прозаически
O Precious Bread

November 2007

The price of bread is going up, again. Dimitar Liudiev, chairman of The Federation of Bakers and Confectioners in Bulgaria reckoned the increase to be in the region of 10-15%. Currently the price of bread throughout the country varies between 90 stotinki and 1.20 leva. The expected increase will put up the price of this essential product by some 10-20 stotinki per loaf (500-700 grams). This is the fifth or sixth increase during the past six months. In May the price of bread was in the range of 45 and 60 stotinki.

Ludiev said in a press conference that this increase has been suppressed until after the elections rerun, but now has to follow up the app. 150 leva per ton increase of the price of flour over the last month. The price per ton of flour was 720 leva in early October but is now between 850 and 900 leva. Over the last three years the price of flour has jumped over 300%. The Federation believes the situation this year is far worse than the 2003 crisis. Expectations are that the Bulgarians’ daily bread will reach 2 leva per kilogram, or about 1.30 – 1.50 for a loaf.

Production costs in Bulgaria vary, including salaries. The price of bread in Bulgaria has started varying only in the past 5-6 years. The psychological factor of having the same price of bread everywhere in the country is a reminder of old Socialist times, and its absence is due to cause unrest amongst the people. The amount of money a family spends on its bread has always been the number one item in a monthly budget allocation.

Bread is omnipresent in Bulgarian traditions and the consumption of bread-stuffs here is much higher than the average for Europe. The normal Bulgarian family of four buys between two and three loaves of bread every day. In addition, many also buy or prepare at home popular bread-stuffs such as home-made banitsa, spanachnik, pitka, mekitsi, etc.

They sell bread in every shop, but public-access bakeries are very rare now in contrast to the time until the mid 1990s. Then, there used to be a bakery in the centre of almost every Bulgarian village or neighbourhood. Bread gives a very intimate experience to Bulgarians – starting from the time of their childhood, when they were first allowed to go and buy bread for the house alone, to the routine responsibility of buying it daily to provide for their own family as they grow up to adulthood.

Now such open bakeries are very rare, and even there, machines have taken over and bread has a less personal touch. This, together with the price hikes over recent years, has normally led to a decrease in the consumption of white bread, also making possible the appearance of a dozen different types of bread in the shops, completely unknown to Bulgarians some ten-fifteen years ago.

At bakeries today one can only buy banichki i boza, a traditional Bulgarian breakfast. Here the word banichka is used to refer not just to that particular type of bread-product, whose larger version is the home-made banitsa, but rather to the whole range of bread-stuffs. Included are different types of banitsa, milinki, kifla, tutmanik, gevrek, salamka, lokumka etc. Boza is the traditional millet-ale popular with all Balkan nations. The price of these bread-products is between 60 stotinki and 1 lev and may reach 1.50 with the boza. Thus, the budget of the average Bulgarian family is burdened by 8-9 leva daily and about 250 leva monthly (3 loaves x 0.90 leva + 4 x 1.10 leva for breakfast). Now, with the average salary of 300-400 leva monthly, the family appears to spend between a quarter and a fifth of their income on bread!

The above calculations are just for orientation. The average child today would rather have a hamburger or djob or a diuner (doner kebab) or a piece of pizza, whose price will normally be higher than that of the banichka s boza. Younger families may have cut down on bread, but for those above 40, bread is still essential. Federation representatives agree that speculation is an important factor for the constant increase of bread as the buy off price from wheat producers was 15-20 stotinki per kilogram this summer.