Belgium looks into why we pay more than neighbours for groceries

Belgium looks into why we pay more than neighbours for groceries
Credit: Belga/Charlotte Gekiere

From beer and butter to spaghetti and cheese, filling up a shopping cart in Belgium has become a lot more expensive than in neighbouring countries. Economy Minister Pierre-Yves Dermagne now wants to figure out why.

While shopping for groceries in Belgium has now become 12% more expensive than in August last year, prices have been rising considerably less in neighbouring countries.

"Belgian consumers have the right to know why pasta, cheese or butter are more expensive in Belgium than in France or the Netherlands," Dermagne posted on Twitter.

To find out why, Dermange commissioned a study from the Price Observatory – a government institution that monitors price developments and market forces in Belgium – to better understand (and ultimately find solutions to) the numerous factors that are threatening purchasing power.

The price increases in Belgium are especially steep compared to those seen in French supermarkets, Dermange's cabinet told De Tijd. While the minister did mention the Netherlands as well, inflation there was 13.6% – much higher than the 9.9% in Belgium.

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"The study should be completed in the coming weeks," he said. "Any suspicious evolutions will be inspected by the competition authority, after which any possible action to reduce prices will be decided."

However, Simon November of consumer protection organisation Test-Achats, argues that it is clear which factors are causing Belgian groceries to be so expensive: "Belgium is a small sales market which is less interesting for large producers. Wage costs, VAT rates and indirect taxes such as the sugar tax also play an important role."

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