According to official statistical data published by the Bulgarian authorities, trade between Bulgaria and Romania increased from 9.373 billion Bulgarian lev (BGN) in 2020 to 12.65 billion BGN in 2021, and Bulgaria records a surplus of 1.082 billion BGN (compared to 578.7 million in 2020), the executive director of the Bulgarian-Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Eleonora Ivanova, said in an interview for BTA.
Considering the value of trade, Romania has become Bulgaria's second largest trade partner, said Eleonora Ivanova.
Ten categories of goods account for approximately 45 percent of Bulgaria's total exports to Romania: iron and steel bars, biodiesel, electricity, tractors, medicines, wheat or a mixture of wheat and barley, harvesting equipment, petroleum gas, mineral fertilizers with azote. The main products that Bulgaria imports from Romania are: petroleum oils, sunflower seeds, flat-rolled iron products, petroleum gas, copper waste, animal and vegetable fats and oils, smartphones, medicines, wires and cables.
Bulgaria has increased its exports of video game consoles and gadgets to Romania, Ivanova said. The Euro Games Technology and Telematic Interactive Bulgaria companies are among the exporters of such products.
"Despite this, Romania is not yet a known market, especially for small Bulgarian companies. Even large Bulgarian companies have difficulties entering the Romanian market and success depends on how the company approaches the market and the sector in which it operates," said Ivanova. She explained that Romania is an intensely competitive and price-sensitive market, especially in the food sector, where Bulgarian companies show the greatest interest.
Judging by the experience of Bulgarian companies that managed to be successful in Romania, the market has a much greater potential than the one in Bulgaria, but companies must invest, plan for losses in the first years and be patient and not give up easily, argued Ivanova.
"From our experience, there are companies that managed to find a good market niche in a year or two, but there are also companies that needed more than three to five years to make their products marketable," added Ivanova.
The biggest Bulgarian investment in Romania is Euroins, the new leader on the insurance market with 3.1 million active policies.
In 2020, Romanian investments in Bulgaria stood at 178.6 million euros. On May 31, 2022, a number of 2,996 companies with Bulgarian capital were registered in Romania, with a cumulative invested capital of 195.66 million euros, which places Bulgaria on 24th place, according to data provided by the Romanian Trade Register, Agerpres.
In the first half of 2022, 390,000 Romanian tourists visited Bulgaria, an increase of 90% compared to the similar period of 2021, Ivanova emphasized. As many as 625,656 Romanian tourists visited Bulgaria in 2020 and 821,856 in 2021.
"The product, the price and the consistency of the quality and quantity of goods offered are the magic words that open the door to the Romanian market," emphasized Ivanova.
The main problem for companies from both countries is crossing the border, commented Ivanova. The Ruse-Giurgiu border crossing point has been facing significant blockages for several years. Currently, this point is congested with both truck traffic and passenger traffic, Ivanova added. Another problem for both countries is the bureaucratic procedures.
Although many people in Romania speak English, it is difficult to conduct business without knowing at least some basic elements of the Romanian language, Ivanova appreciated. Contacts with the local population and building trust are essential. Delays in payment are another frequent problem that persists now, and has intensified during the pandemic, as Bulgarian companies have difficulty getting paid for the delivered ggods, Ivanova said. Bulgarian companies have learned their lesson and do research in advance about their partners and consult with lawyers as soon as they establish business contacts.
The Bulgarian-Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is currently working on 12 projects with EU funding and two more projects are to be launched soon. The projects mainly support SMEs in Bulgaria and Europe. The projects are related to topics on the EU agenda: digitalization of business, innovation, green energy and circular economy.
"Starting with June, we started a new project that mainly targets industrial companies in Europe, including in Bulgaria and Romania. A consortium of 14 European organizations and universities will set up a complete ecosystem to support companies with consulting, financial assistance and specific services, so as to facilitate their transition to the green economy," said Ivanova.