This issue of the Price Monitoring Bulletin is prepared based on the operational daily food price data collected by the National Statistics Committee from 18 markets across the country and disaggregated at province level as the average value (Chuy province - Tokmok, Kara-Balta; Osh province - Osh, Uzgen, Kara-Suu and Nookat; Talas province - Talas and Manas; Naryn province - Naryn and Chaek; Batken province - Batken and Isfana; Jalal-Abad province - Jalal-Abad, Toktogul and Kerben; Yssyk-Kul province - Karakol and Balykchy; and Bishkek city). This is a secondary data analysis.
SITUATION UPDATE: Since March 2020, the COVID-19 global pandemic and its resulting negative impacts on the global economy have led to a recession in the economies of many countries, including the Kyrgyz Republic. In addition, the recent political instability has further contributed to the deterioration of the economy. The situation in regard to COVID-19 remained stable with 119 COVID-19 cases on 30 December. Compared to the same period last year, the Kyrgyz Republic’s GDP decreased by 8.1 percent totaling 511 billion Kyrgyz soms from January to November 2020. Negative trends were observed in the construction, wholesale and retail trade economic sectors. The highest share of GDP accounted for industry (21.3 percent), manufacturing industry (17.8 percent), trade (15.2 percent) and agriculture (14.8 percent). Compared to the same period last year, the Consumer Price Index, which measures price inflation, increased by 6 percent for all goods and services and by 11 percent for staple foods (cereals, meat, fish, milk and dairy products, fruits and vegetables). The Government continues to monitor and stabilize food markets across the country through establishing price controls on 11 essential food items and regulating import and export volumes.
The following section discusses the average prices for the two weeks from 16 to 30 December 2020 in comparison to the previous two weeks, the monthly average of February 2020 (before the COVID-19 outbreak began in the country), the previous month’s average (November 2020) and the monthly average in December 2019. The weekly monitoring of food prices revealed the fluctuations of several commodities with a significant increase in egg prices:
• WHEAT: During the weeks from 16 to 30 December 2020, the national retail prices of wheat increased by 4 percent from the previous two weeks’ levels, with an average price of 23.54 KGS/Kg. As of 30 December 2020, the highest price of wheat was observed in Bishkek city (25 KGS/Kg) and the lowest price was in Naryn province (16 KGS/Kg). The rise in the average national prices was in line with an increase of the wheat export prices in the Russian Federation. The prices increased by 4 percent compared to November 2020 and by 24 percent higher compared to February 2020. The prices were 27 percent higher compared to December 2019 and continued to be higher than normal annual price fluctuations, within 15 percent of the benchmark.
• POTATOES: The national retail prices of potatoes continued to grow by another 3 percent (or a 1 KGS increase) from the previous two weeks’ levels, reaching a national average of 30.10 KGS/Kg. As of 30 December 2020, the highest price was observed in Jalal-Abad province (33 KGS/Kg), while the lowest price was in Talas province (26 KGS/Kg).
Compared to November 2020 and February 2020, prices were 16 percent and 37 percent higher, respectively. The prices were 52 percent higher compared to December 2019, which was significantly higher than normal seasonal price fluctuations.
• OIL (COOKING): From 16 to 30 December 2020, the national retail prices of vegetable oil rose by another 4 percent from the previous two weeks’ levels (148 KGS/Kg), reaching the highest value of all time. As of 30 December 2020, the highest price was in Bishkek city (152 KGS/kg) and the lowest in Chuy province (139 KGS/kg). The Kyrgyz Republic has a high import dependency on vegetable oil due to its low internal production and its low capacity for the processing of oil seeds. The increasing trend of vegetable oil prices was caused by the growing export prices in the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, attributed to unfavorable weather conditions, and a consequently lower harvest. Compared to November 2020 and December 2019, the prices were 14 percent and 55 percent higher, respectively, an increase above normal annual price fluctuations.
• SUGAR: The national retail prices of sugar continued to grow by 1 percent from the previous two weeks’ levels, reaching an average price of 54.22 KGS/Kg. The increase in sugar prices was in line with global trends, as historically proven by the positive correlation between global and national prices. As of 30 December 2020, the highest price was observed in Batken and Osh provinces (56 KGS/Kg), while the lowest price was in Chuy province (50 KGS/Kg). The prices of sugar were 2 percent and 32 percent higher than November 2020 and December 2019 levels, respectively, an increase significantly higher than normal annual price fluctuations.
• MEAT (BEEF and MUTTON): During the weeks from 16 to 30 December 2020, the national retail prices of meat increased by another 1 percent for both beef and mutton compared to the previous two week’s levels, leading to an average price of 436.77 KGS/Kg for beef and 412.11 KGS/Kg for mutton. As of 30 December 2020, the highest prices for beef were observed in Bishkek city at 449 KGS/Kg and for mutton in Batken province at 450 KGS/Kg, respectively. The prices for beef and mutton both increased by 4 percent compared to November 2020 levels and by 25 percent and 28 percent, respectively, compared to December 2019, an increase above normal annual price fluctuations.
• EGGS: The national retail prices of eggs increased by 9 percent from the previous weeks’ levels, reaching 96 KGS/10 pcs. The increasing trend of eggs prices was caused by the growing export prices in Kazakhstan, attributed to unfavorable seasonal conditions and the instability of the currency exchange. As of 30 December 2020, the highest price was observed in Talas province (119 KGS/10 pcs) and the lowest in Bishkek city (97 KGS/10 pcs). The prices of eggs were 14 percent and 28 percent higher compared to November 2020 and December 2019, respectively. The prices were significantly higher than normal annual price fluctuations.
EXCHANGE RATE: During the two weeks from 16 to 30 December 2020, the Kyrgyz som depreciated from 82.9 KGS to 83.4 KGS per 1 USD, the Russian ruble stayed relatively stable and depreciated from 73.45 RUB to 73.65 RUB per 1 USD and the Kazakh tenge remained stable at 420 KZT per 1 USD. However, these currencies depreciated by 19 percent, 10 percent and 10 percent, respectively, against the US dollar since the beginning of March 2020, according to the exchange rate of the National Bank. Lower remittances levels were among the factors affecting the weakening of the external position of the Kyrgyz som. During the February-July 2020 period, remittances decreased by 9 percent compared to the same period in 2019. The recent political unrest and its related uncertainty also contributed to the weakening of the national currency. Currency movements are one of the main driving forces of the retail prices of imported basic food commodities including wheat, vegetable oil and sugar.
GLOBAL OIL PRICES: Since the beginning of 2020, crude oil prices slumped dramatically following the lockdowns, travel restrictions and the decline in consumer demand with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, further impacting the global economy. According to global forecasts, the full recovery of oil demand levels may not take place until 2022. Most recently, hopes for the development of successful coronavirus vaccinations have resulted in oil prices seeing slight increases since 16 November 2020. It is anticipated that there still could be additional petroleum product weakness and higher levels of oil stocks. In some countries around the world the oil demand has fully recovered. A rise in oil stocks and any pending economic weakness suggests that WTI could slide lower toward the recent trading range. During the week from 14 to 21 December the WTI prices increased from 47.6 USD per barrel to 47.8 USD per barrel, while Brent prices increased from 50.27 USD per barrel to 50.61 USD per barrel. As of 21 December, the WTI prices remained 2 percent higher and Brent prices remained 4 percent lower, respectively, than March 2020 levels.
AVAILABILITY: Since the last price monitoring issue, the availability of wheat and wheat flour slightly decreased in Naryn and remained unvaried in the rest country. Overall, the availability of wheat and wheat flour was good and remained relatively stable. Thirty districts showed good levels of availability though the situation was critical in six districts.
Considering the prevalence of poverty in the country, the high share of income spent on food by the poor and the increasing wheat prices in the provinces that may affect their access to food, particular attention should be devoted to districts in Jalal-Abad province as ‘insufficient’ availability may further hinder the ability of the poor to consume wheat and wheat flour. In the past two weeks, the availability of vegetable oil improved in Jalal-Abad and Naryn, while it remained unvaried in all other provinces. Only fourteen districts showed ‘sufficient’ stock levels. Given the high poverty rate in Batken province (33 percent), the most dramatic situation was observed in Leilek district where ‘insufficient’ availability may have further hindered the ability of the most vulnerable to consume vegetable oil. Compared to the previous two weeks, the availability of sugar slightly worsened in Osh and Talas provinces, while it marginally increased in Naryn and Yssyk-Kul. Overall, the situation remained critical with ‘insufficient’ or ‘severely insufficient’ stock levels in 32 districts. Considering the high incidence of poverty, the high prices and the scarce availability of sugar, particular attention should be devoted to Leilek and Batken districts in Batken province.