By Shakeh Avoyan
The prices of basic food products such as bread and cooking oil are higher in Yerevan than in the majority of other former Soviet capitals, an Armenian government official said on Wednesday.
Gurgen Martirosian, a senior official at the National Statistical Service (NSS), based this assertion on a comparative analysis of food price indices in the capitals of Armenia and eight other former Soviet republics, including Russia and Azerbaijan. The data were provided to the NSS by the Inter-State Statistical Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
According to those figures cited by Martirosian, Yerevan boasts the highest retail prices of cooking oil and eggs. Those products cost less even in Moscow, one of the most expensive cities in the world and by far the wealthiest place in the former Soviet Union.
Armenia meets its demand in cooking oil mainly through imports, and government officials could argue that the high cost of transporting goods to the country pushes up its cost in the domestic market. By contrast, the bulk of eggs sold in Yerevan stores come from Armenian poultry farms supposedly competing with each other. Speaking to RFE/RL, Martirosian could not explain why they are more expensive than in Moscow and the seven other ex-Soviet capitals.
Only in one of those cities, Kazakhstan’s capital Astana, the average price of bread, a staple food across the former USSR, is higher than that in Yerevan. The Armenian capital also trails only Moscow as well as the capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek, in terms of the cost of butter. In Martirosian’s words, sugar is apparently the only basic foodstuff whose price in Yerevan is close to the CIS average.
The official statistics reflect the increased cost of life in Armenia which is not confined to food. New research presented by a Yerevan think-tank last August, for example, concluded that Armenians pay more for fixed-line phone services than residents of not only neighboring countries but the United States.