RIGA - Baltic consumers' biggest fear of EU accession appears to have already materialized, as the Central Statistics Bureau announced last week that prices for foodstuffs rose 2.1 percent in January. According to bureau data, milk and dairy products have risen the most.
Experts said the prices increases had less to do with upcoming EU membership and more with seasonal factors - i.e., higher energy costs and weather conditions. Still, they warn that further increases are on the way, and much of it will be due to joining the economic bloc.
Inguna Gulbe, who heads the agricultural market promotion center, told the daily Diena that beef prices in Latvia were certain to rise after May 1, since currently they are the lowest in Europe. By contrast, pork prices could remain where they are given that the meat is already pricey.
Producers, for their part, are reportedly wary of raising prices too fast lest sales plummet dramatically. Latvian dairy products are currently half the average EU price, but producers, seeing that consumption dropped once prices rose this winter, are reluctant ro raise prices too fast.
But they still warn that prices will continue to rise this year. Valdis Grimze, head of the Egg Producers' Association, said that the price for one egg could rise by 0.003 (0.0045 euro) lat by year's end.
Some imported foodstuffs are also set to become more expensive with EU accession. Rice, for example, will be hit with a 274 lat duty per ton.
Gulbe said she was forecasting that prices could rise 30 percent - 50 percent over the next few years.