Inflation for supermarket goods has reached record levels in Belgium, further straining household budgets at a time when Europe's energy crisis has already pushed many to the brink of economic despair.
According to a study published on Thursday by consumer analysis firm Testaankoop, prices for supermarket goods in February were 19.76% higher compared to the same month in 2022. This broke the previous annual inflation record of 19.67% registered in December last year.
"With such numbers, we can't help but speak of a nutritional crisis, especially since we don't expect prices to drop next month," said Testaankoop spokesperson Laura Clays. "We therefore call on governments to think about ways to help households, such as the anti-inflation basket that is now making its appearance in France. These are a number of basic products, the price of which is fixed for a certain time."
The latest figures mean that the average two-person Belgian household can expect to spend €512 a month on groceries – €85 more compared to this time last year.
Of the 3,000 supermarket products examined by Testaankoop, frozen fries underwent the strongest price increase (51%), followed by cauliflower (49%), tomato paste (46%), roast chicken (44%), and cucumber (44%).
Among general product categories, paper goods – which include kitchen paper, toilet paper, and paper handkerchiefs – also experienced considerable price growth (42%), as did various dairy products including young gouda cheese (42%), cream (35%) and butter (30%).
By contrast, personal hygiene products (11%) underwent the smallest annual inflation, while drinks (12%), fruit (14%), fish (16%), and non-poultry meat (17%) also registered less-than-average price rises.
Left to fend for themselves
According to the study, the steep rise in the price of supermarket goods isn't down to a single factor: "High energy prices, which also lead to high production costs, increased wage costs and transport costs are the cause of the ever-increasing prices," the study noted.
The record price increase for supermarket goods comes at a particularly distressing time for Belgian consumers. According to another Testaankoop study published in January, one-third of Belgians claim that they are unable to absorb any further price increases, while 40% are currently dipping into their savings to pay the bills. One in eight Belgians also reported to have recently turned to friends and family members in order to make ends meet.
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"We hope the government listens to this message and takes it really seriously," said Clays, the Testaankoop spokesperson, told De Morgen. "Many consumers feel that there should be more control over these rising prices."