Last week, the continent's energy crisis pushed prices at the pumps ever higher with the cost of diesel well in excess of €2 per litre. As if this wasn't bad enough for individuals, service stations were forced to sell at a loss as Belgium's consumer price caps failed to keep up with the wholesale fuel prices creating an unsatisfactory situation for all involved.
However, for those who don't own a car these price hikes, epic though they are, can easily be a bit abstract and, mercifully, not a fixture of our weekly budgets. Indeed, thanks to Belgium's soft spot for company cars, there is no shortage of drivers who have been spared the soaring fuel costs by their employers footing the bill.
Yet it isn't only motorists who have fallen victim to the energy crunch, with the shockwaves now spreading to many other consumer sectors. If fossil fuels are the essence of our motorised economy, food – and more specifically bread – is the base of many diets and a daily expenditure in many households.
Indeed, the index price has long been used by analysts as an indicator of the health of a nation's economy and an obvious reference when calculating the cost of living. Although bakers in Belgium can now set their own prices for bread, the reference sales price still serves as a guide to fluctuations in the cost of groceries.
So an increase of €0.30 is by no means insignificant and reflects increases elsewhere in the production process and supply chain. Admittedly, 30 cents more won't break the bank for individuals, but with inflation at its highest level in a generation, a general shrinking of disposable household income will make itself felt with even the most basic of purchases.
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