RIGA - A Latvian agricultural expert has warned that food prices, which generally tend to outpace overall inflation, could grow 10 percent this year.
Inguna Gulbe, head of the Agriculture Market Promotion Center, explained that the main reasons for the expected increase were due to rising costs in energy.
The planned increase in the minimum wage may also push food product prices up, as many employees in the food industry receive only minimum wages, the specialist said.
She pointed out that only introduction of advanced technologies might help reduce production costs, thus keeping food product prices down.
Among food groups, Gulbe said that beef was expected to rise in price by 20 percent, while the prices of chicken and pork products are expected to grow by 5-10 percent.
She predicted a small increase in the cost of dairy products, as the present milk purchase price has almost reached the EU level. Thus prices of milk, curd, cheese and other dairy products might rise by 5-10 percent in 2006, the expert predicted.
The cost of cereal products this year is also expected to grow by 5-10 percent, with the steepest price hikes expected for bread, as its production is an energy-consuming process, the specialist explained.
According to data from the Latvian statistics bureau, last year food products in Latvia became more expensive by 8.9 percent on average.
The steepest price hike in 2005 was for cheese 's 21.3 percent, while bread grew in price by 17.6 percent, fish and fish products by 16.7 percent, dairy products by 14.8 percent and meat and meat products by 8.4 percent.
The only products not to increase in price significantly were sugar, sweets, spices, juices and mineral water.
Average annual inflation last year amounted to 7.3 percent. This year the government said it hoped to reduce the rate to 5 's 5.5 percent. o