Western Balkan countries warn of looming cooking oil shortages

Western Balkan countries warn of looming cooking oil shortages
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje March 10, 2022

Kosovo will have sufficient quantities of edible oil only for one month, Prime Minister Albin Kurti said on March 10 after visiting the only edible oil producer in the country, Floil.

The disruptions on the food market came amid the economic crisis stemming from the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Both Russia and Ukraine are major producers of sunflower oil, and the war in Ukraine is affecting the spring sowing season, while exports from Russia are set to be disrupted by western sanctions and Russian counter sanctions. Just like those of grain, cooking oil prices are rising sharply. 

Some countries — including both North Macedonia and Serbia — have banned exports of cooking oils to preserve domestic supply and rein in price hikes. 

Speaking after the visit to the Floil factory, Kurti Kurti said that due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the price of edible crude oil on the international market is approaching the level of $3,000 per tonne.

“We have been informed that the factory has about 300,000 litres of edible crude oil in stock, which after processing will be enough to cover the consumption for about one month,” he said, according to a government statement. 

“Meanwhile, during this month we will be committed to find sources of crude oil materials in friendly countries and partners to cover the shortages in the country,” he added.

However, he said that currently, due to the crisis, the demand is artificially much higher. The price of one litre of edible oil in Kosovo increased to €1.95 as of March 10.

Serbia and North Macedonia restrict exports 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced a ban on exports of oil, wheat, corn and flour from March 10. 

The same day, North Macedonia’s economy ministry said that it imposed temporary restrictions on export of sunflower edible oil to ease the pressure on prices on domestic market.

Restrictions on the export of edible oil will apply to all countries, including neighbouring ones, despite Serbia's recent decision that its ban on wheat exports will not apply to North Macedonia and other countries in the region.

The restrictions on export of edible oil will be valid until May 31, the ministry said.

Economy Minister Kreshnik Bekteshi said that the decision was taken given that the country exported 330,000 tonnes of edible oil in just one week.

A day earlier North Macedonia’s government adopted a package of 26 measures and recommendations divided into two categories - for protection of living standards of citizens and maintaining the liquidity and financial support of companies worth €400mn to ease the effects of the economic crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.