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Bulgaria Suffers Bread Shortage

May 15, 1996

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) _ In the latest sign of a deepening economic crisis, a flour shortage has forced hundreds of bakeries across Bulgaria to close this week.

Only eight of 50 private bakeries were operating in Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city, the opposition Demokratsiya newspaper reported Wednesday.

While shortages have not yet reached the capital, worried customers waited for hours Wednesday in long lines at bread shops in Sofia.

``I have two kids, and they want to eat,″ said travel agent Mariana Hristova, who closed her office to wait in a bread line.

The shortage was caused last year when private firms, eager to take advantage of better prices on the world market, exceeded government limits on grain exports.

To alleviate the shortage, the Bulgarian government earlier this week opened its grain reserves, but as of Wednesday the action had not gotten bread to many bakeries.

The government has also promised to use precious foreign reserves to buy 100,000 tons of flour from neighboring Romania and from Serbia. But the sale has not yet gone through.

The Socialist government of Premier Zhan Videnov is grappling with the most severe economic crisis since the end of Communist rule six years ago.

Videnov is under pressure to stabilize the lev currency, which already has lost 36 percent of its value this year, and to accelerate privatization of state enterprises to qualify for new international loans.

Unions announced their opposition Tuesday to a government plan to close 65 state-owned businesses, which account for one-third of the country’s budget deficit.