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Slovenians Increasingly Fond of Local Food, Conference Hears

Portorož, 04 June (STA) - The campaign promoting local food has shown results, Agriculture Ministry State Secretary Tanja Strniša told an annual conference of agricultural and food companies in Portorož on Wednesday. The country however continues to import roughly 50% more food than it exports, while exports have even been increasing slowly.

Since the campaign promoting Slovenian food was launched, the share of Slovenians who believe home-grown and locally produced food is of good quality has increased, Strniša said.

Meanwhile economist Aleš Kuhar said that Slovenia exported EUR 960m worth of processed food annually on average, while its imports amount to EUR 1.48m annually. The gap has however narrowed slightly due to an increase in the export of milk, he said.

Apart from a small surplus recorded in the trade of milk and dairy products, the country also continues to export more beer than it imports, Kuhar added.

Croatia is the single biggest market for Slovenia's food, followed by Bosnia-Herzegovina and Austria, as well as other countries of the former Yugoslavia, said Kuhar, who believes that sales could be increased in the neighbouring countries if export ties were strengthened.

On the other hand, Germany is on its way to become the biggest importer to Slovenia, mostly due to the discount retailers, many of whom originate from Germany, the economist believes.

Kuhar also said that the price of food in Slovenian stores was slowly but steadily nearing the EU average. At the moment, prices of food in Slovenia are at 91.8% of the EU average.

Touching on the reasons for the relatively high prices, Kuhar believes the high figures cannot be attributed to quality alone. The two most significant reasons are the effects of the specifics in Slovenia's supply chain and the "tax on the small market".

In comparison to neighbouring countries, the biggest difference in food prices is seen between Slovenia and Croatia in meat and meat products.

Kuhar therefore believes that if Slovenia's biggest retailer is indeed sold to its Croatian rival Agrokor, there will be "extreme pressure on [producers to lower the prices of] meat".

The economist moreover expressed concern that Slovenian food companies posted less than EUR 2bn in revenue last year for the first time in 15 years. He said the country's food industry was barely breaking even.

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