In connection with the significant fluctuations on the food salt market starting with the end of February 2022, the Competition Council has carried out the market analysis and comes with the following information:
The Council noted a significant change in the market structure after the start of the military conflict in Ukraine. In the first half of March 2022, a temporary deficit of food salt was found in the Republic of Moldova on the shelves of retail trade units. The lack of salt on the shelf was caused predominantly by 2 basic factors:
• Short-term decrease in salt stocks, given the impossibility to carry out imports from Ukraine and the need to identify and contract the product from other sources;
• Irrational purchasing behavior of consumers, characterized by the purchase of excessive volumes of salt, out of fear that this product will be missing in the future in the Republic of Moldova (being known that the most popular brand of food salt (iodized and gemstone) until the military conflict was Артемсоль, produced in Ukraine, Donetsk region).
However, in order to monitor the competitive environment, as well as the need to exclude a possible dishonest behavior of importing undertakings and / or traders following the crisis situation, the Competition Council has accumulated and examined the main relevant information on the import and marketing of food salt, especially from 24.02.2022 until now.
In the Republic of Moldova this market is fully determined by the import. Thus, in 2021, definitive imports of salt were made in the Republic of Moldova by 83 undertakings, in a total amount of 23,527.31 tons, with a low degree of concentration, being present a large number of importing undertakings.
Regarding the origin of imports, in 2021, 86.44% of the salt destined for human food was imported from Ukraine, 5.91% - from Belorus and 4.71% - from Romania, the rest - from other 13 countries. In 2022 (01.01.2022-19.04.2022) 5676.64 tons of salt for human food were imported into the Republic of Moldova by 66 importers. Of these, 3739 tons were imported in the period 24.02.2022 to 19.04.2022 (519 transactions made by 62 undertakings), which is only 2% less than the quantity imported in the same period of the previous year (3 816 tons).
It was found that the daily quantities imported in the last days of February were significantly lower than in the previous year. However, in March 2022 the situation recovered, this difference being fully compensated, which also led to the short-term resolution of the lack of food salt on the shelf.
With reference to the source of origin, it is found that practically the entire quantity of salt that was previously imported from Ukraine was replaced by salt from Romania (78.36%) and from Turkey (8%), with imports from other 14 states. We mention that for March 2022, the National Bureau of Statistics reported a 42.5% increase in the price of food salt compared to February 2022. We consider this increase to be due to a significant increase in import prices as a result of changes in the main sources of supply. However, salt imported from Romania has always been significantly more expensive than Ukrainian salt, taking into account the fact that there are differences in quality, packaging (most of the Ukrainian salt was shaped in the Republic of Moldova), etc.
At the moment, no signs have been identified that would indicate the existence of anti-competitive practices implemented by importing companies and traders, which would have led to the lack of food salt on the shelf in the first half of March 2022. At the same time, if someone has information on the existence of such practices, the Competition Council requests their presentation in order to take the necessary intervention measures according to its attributions.