Belgium should freeze the prices of 100 products for three months to make sure people do not get into financial trouble when buying basic products in light of the skyrocketing inflation, said consumer protection organisation Test Achats.
Grocery shopping in the supermarket was 20% more expensive in March this year than in the same month in 2022, which is why Test Achats is launching a proposal for the Federal Government to freeze the prices of certain products, such as bread, milk and fruit and vegetables.
"We are in an exceptional situation and it has become difficult for consumers to buy affordable basic products," spokesperson Laura Clays said on Flemish radio. The proposal has come over from Greece and has also recently been implemented in France, where the "anti-inflation basket" including some essentials ensures that consumers will not run into trouble. "If they can do it, why can't we?"
"The energy crisis has turned into a food crisis," she said. While Test-Achats acknowledged that the Federal Government has already made efforts to safeguard purchasing power – with the basic package for energy, for example – Clays added that "desperate times call for desperate measures."
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"We know that the resources of the government are limited, but we do think that solutions should be considered. We do not think such an anti-inflation basket is a bad idea, which is why we are proposing it," she said. "How that should be worked out and who has to pay can be worked out later."
Flemish Work Minister Jo Brouns (CD&V), however, told Het Laatste Nieuws that he is not convinced: shelves will remain empty and suppliers will go bankrupt if the government decides to freeze prices. Trade organisation Comeos is not in favour of such an anti-inflation basket either, as they said the supermarket's margins are already low and the pressure on the farmers will only increase.
"Supermarkets may indeed have to sell at a loss for a while," Clays said. "But we are in an exceptional situation and it has become very difficult for consumers to buy basic products, so a solution must be found. If Comeos and the government say that our idea is a bad one, they are invited to come up with better ideas themselves."