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Bulgaria: Private Bread Producers Predict More Shortages

By Georgi Papakotchev

Sofia, 1 November 1996 (RFE/RL) -- Bulgarian bread producers are predicting another bread shortage this winter.

Rangel Cholakov, chairman of the country's Union of Private Breadmakers, said today that private bakers would be left without flour in a month's time and that a single loaf would cost about 83 cents by year end. Bread prices have already increased fivefold this year. The situation is particularly dire for pensioners who receive an average of about $20 dollars a month to live on.

Bulgaria, traditionally a grain exporter, is expected this year to harvest only a third of what it produced in 1989.

Analysts say Bulgarian farmers have little incentive to plant grain or invest in new equipment because they are forced to sell their harvests to a state grain purchasing board at prices far below the international market.

Bread shortages struck Bulgaria after Socialist Prime Minister Zhan Videnov last year allowed private companies to export state grain reserves. The private companies that profited from those sell-offs are members of a secretive financial group called "Orion," which is closely linked to Videnov.