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Bucharest
January 27, 2021
EDITORIAL

The unbearable price of bread

Each time the Romanians’ attention is caught by a dramatic event, a press release without apparent importance surfaces, like a fortuitous occurrence. We were thus informed, against the background of the fierce clashes between politicians going on these days, about a new price hike of bread, which is the main food of Romanians. And the increase will not be by the 2-3-4 percent points which retirees hope will have their pensions increased with, but rather by a massive 20 pc, “starting this autumn,” as we are told. And this “autumn” will likely come around mid-August, or even earlier. Because – let’s not forget – the moguls of bakeries, same as their “brothers” in other activity sectors, have their own calendar which they manipulate as they please. Like in the situation of so many abuses made by “local barons,” the new price increase of bread and of other food products indispensable to life demonstrates that the real power, in the Romanian state, is held neither by the Government, nor by the Presidency, not even by the Parliament, whose laws are perfidiously circumvented.

This perfidy is demonstrated even by the few words that pretend to explain the new price hike of bread. “There is no more wheat available on the Romanian market,” we are told, so wheat must be imported at a higher price, because of the RON devaluation. But why did Romanian wheat disappear from the market? This, we are not told. Could the local moguls have forgotten about the good wheat output achieved last year in Romania? Should food prices depend only on the devaluation of the RON, but ignore the moments when the local currency goes up? Like any other currency, the Romanian Leu oscillates between ups and downs. Local moguls, however, only see what they please, and pretend not to notice the appreciations of the RON, be it temporary. This is what generated the paradoxical solution of local fruits (cherries, sour-cherries, apricots etc.) being more expensive that those of imported fruits like bananas, oranges etc.This situation should not be blamed on the local producers of grapes, fruits, vegetables, even flowers, because they are cash-strapped and on the verge of chronic poverty. The responsibility of this crime with premeditation belongs to the heads of local mobs, which operate only to their own interest and do not care for the community they blackmail. Their discretionary power is so high that they do not even care to hide their identities, as occult forces, and operate in the open, in broad daylight, defying the law and… also their own future here, in the country. This happens because, if drastic measures were taken against their abuses in Romania, these speculators with substantial accounts in foreign banks are ready to transfer their businesses abroad and escape the Romanian justice.The obvious portrait of these local mobsters becomes obvious during the surveys seldom conducted in the food markets of Romanian towns. Most of those who sell food products here are not agricultural producers, but all kind of intermediaries, which sometimes form gangs that threaten farmers to sell very cheap their products to these gangs, and then resell the respective vegetables and fruits at prices that are 300-400 pc higher than what they paid for them. This explains the commercial aberration of Romanian tomatoes, for instance, that are more expensive that imported ones. Because of these evil practices, local producers are nearly bankrupt, some of them being forced to sell their farmland to so-called strategic investors, who already control thousands and thousands of hectares in Romania. Many of these wide areas of farmland are left uncultivated, ready to be sold when prices go up again. Even when this does not happen and the land is used for agriculture, the output is integrally exported and the local market must bring the products from abroad, at high prices.This formula of “getting rich by legal theft” is also used in the case of wheat, which explains the price hikes of bread, even after years of good wheat crops in Romania. This is a well-known “trick.” Right after being harvested, wheat is either massively exported at low prices, or it is “forgotten” in the barns of more than 9 million small farmers. Does this happen because Romanian wheat has a gluten deficit? Certainly not! This happens because, by ignoring it, one may resort to substantial imports, which generate hefty commission fees and, additionally, are seen as “arguments” for raising the price of wheat.The price increases should not happen, in fact. The stability of bread price is needed because this type of food is essential for our eating habits. It is totally possible to keep bread price steady even in times of draught, because – like any modern state – Romania must always have a strategic reserve of wheat, equivalent to the national bread consumption for at least 2 years. With Romania’s annual consumption estimated at 5.5 million tons of wheat, and the output of this cereal being 10-12 million tons a year, this strategic reserve should not be hard to obtain. To this view, huge silos for the storage of wheat have been built during more than four decades in Romania, with much financial effort. They should secure the wheat supply needed in case of draught or any other cataclysm, because a state that is unable to assure its food security risks becoming a ghost-state. Today’s Romania no longer has this traditional wheat reserve, also because it no longer has many of the silos built to this regard. They have been privatised, hence taken out of the economic circuit. Fraudulent privatisation operations find here their most accusing examples, but nobody was, or is held accountable for this. Why, in a state dominated by the rule of law, those responsible for such disasters do not pay for their deeds? Are rulers waiting to see the people revolt over the lack of the so-called “daily bread,” as it is invoked in Romanians’ prayers?

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