In February 2017, the average cost of cooking one standard Imeretian khachapuri decreased to 3.66 GEL, which is 0.2% higher month-on-month (compared to January 2016), and 6.2% higher year-on-year (that is, compared to February 2016). The main contributors to the y/y Khachapuri Index inflation were cheese (12.1%) and milk (3.6%). The prices of the four other ingredients decreased: flour (2.6%), butter (0.4%), eggs (2.0%), and yeast (1.0%).

Recently, the quality of cheese sold in open bazaars has been hotly discussed topic in the media. In Georgia, fresh milk is mostly produced by smallholder farmers, and it is very difficult to control quality. While industrial cheese-makers use pasteurized milk, a large share of cheese in Georgia is produced by hand at home, and it is made with soft, raw milk. Using unpasteurized fresh milk in cheese production can cause serious infectious diseases. Apart from the food safety considerations (and the lack of quality checks), the artisanal home production of cheese is creating unfair competition in the market.

This week we are offering a special edition of the Khachapuri Index. For this edition, we asked our relatives and friends who live abroad to tell us the price of khachapuri ingredients they are buying. Unfortunately, they cannot buy Imeretian cheese in their counties of residence, so they usually use mozzarella or feta cheese to make khachapuri. Of course, even mozzarella cheese brands and prices vary from country to country. However, we looked at data on whatever cheese our informants think is most similar to khachapuri cheese; we wanted to check how much it costs for the diaspora to cook khachapuri in different countries.

In February 2017, the average cost of cooking one standard Imeretian khachapuri declined to 3.66 GEL, which is 0.2% lower month-on-month (that is, compared to January 2017) and 6.2% higher year-on-year (compared to February 2016).

The monthly small decline in the Index follows the traditional seasonal trend in fresh milk production, which usually starts during this period of the year, and gradually increases.

It is clear from the graph that in last two months, the Index had nearly identical values all over Georgia, except Kutaisi. The price of khachapuri in Kutaisi is 3.95 GEL, and beginning in December 2016, it shows a divergence to prices with other cities of Georgia. The reasons were explained in a previous publication. Prices in three cities (Tbilisi, Batumi and Telavi) have tended to converge, which offers no arbitrage opportunities in the cheese market. The price of one Imeretian khachapuri in Batumi stands at 3.55 GEL, and 3.53 Gel and 3.59 GEL in Tbilisi and in Telavi, respectively.

The Khachapuri Index has declined in February, with the average cost of cooking one standard Imeretian khachapuri reaching 3.66 GEL. This is 0.2% lower month-on-month (compared to January 2017), and 6.2% higher year-on-year (compared to February 2016).

In general, the downward trend in the Khachapuri Index at this time of the year is driven by the seasonal decline in cheese prices. The price of cheese has declined by 1.2% month-over-month. This decline could be explained by the fact that supply of fresh milk starts to increase from this period of year. It is expected that this trend will continue in the next month, not only because of increased supply, but also because of lower demand for milk and milk products due to a fasting period.

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