The Flemish Greens believe that fruit and vegetables are too expensive for many consumers on a daily basis and therefore want to remove VAT on these food products, said Greens MP Barbara Creemers on Saturday.
"Even citizens with few means will then be able to enjoy a varied diet," she said. With soaring inflation making household products ever more expensive, eating a healthy diet has become more difficult.
Under EU law, the minimum VAT is 5%. In Belgium, VAT is slightly higher than the EU minimum and is set at 6% on fruit and vegetables.
Creemers points out that around half the Belgian adult population is overweight. In 2018, nearly half of the adult population aged 18+ (49%) was overweight (BMI ≥ 25) and 16% was obese (BMI ≥ 30), according to Belgium's Health Ministry.
- 85% of food retail market in Belgium controlled by five groups
- Some children’s fruit pouches contain more sugar than Coca-cola
Moreover, studies show that citizens from lower socio-economic groups are more likely to become obese.
"Varying your diet by including enough fruit and vegetables is an expensive item for many households. By eliminating VAT on these products, fruit and vegetables will become more attractive than processed food," said Creemers.
"The price of fresh vegetables and fruit has increased in recent years by 5.8%. Each year, Belgians spend an average of 950 euros on buying these products."
Not enough get 5 a day
Low consumption of fruit and vegetables is a major concern. In 2019, 1 in 3 people (33%) in the EU reported not consuming any fruit or vegetables daily and only 12% of the population consumed the recommended 5 portions or more daily.
On average, over half of the EU population (55%) said they ate between 1 and 4 portions of fruit and vegetables daily, according to the EU's office for statistics, Eurostat.
Targeted subsidies on fruit and vegetables is the best option towards encouraging citizens towards a healthy diet. According to the WHO, it has the "greatest potential to induce positive changes in consumption", while lowering VAT on fruit and vegetables would be the most tax-efficient way to lower prices on these products.