Editorial: The rising costs of a weekly shop

Last Updated on Friday, 2 July, 2021 at 1:20 pm by Andre Camilleri

One of the most interesting statistics to emerge this week was the news that food prices in Malta were 12.2% higher than the European Union average in 2020. These figures which were released by Eurostat allows us to  compare consumer price levels between EU states in different areas. The data covers the year 2020.

Denmark had the highest food prices in the EU, 28.9% higher than the average, while Romania had the lowest (34.7% lower than the European Union average). The EU countries with higher food prices than Malta were Denmark, Luxembourg, Austria, Sweden, Finland, France and Belgium. Now we all know doing your weekly shop on the islands isn’t a cheap affair. Having lived across Europe, numerous things are missing. While one can appreciate perhaps importation costs are higher due to the fact we are not connected to the bloc, there are ways in which other countries are making food affordable – where we are not.

For example, regular promotional offers in the supermarket are more of a luxury than a daily find and not all supermarkets provide the likes of buy one get one free deals. On top of this many of our European counterparts are quick to price down fresh goods or foods due to expire at the end of the day. For many shoppers with a restricted budget, this is their only means to obtaining a full shop and freezing/bulk buying what they can. Here yellow sticker reductions are virtually non-existent. We are yet to see a “Reduced” fresh section across all of our supermarkets.

In the UK alone, supermarkets are throwing away the equivalent of 190 million meals a year that could be given to the hungry, the UK Independent revealed. The latest data shows that Britain’s top 10 chains are donating less than 9% of their surplus food for human consumption. Just 24,242 tons was passed on to the needy out of 282,338 tons of unsold food approaching its use-by or best-before date.

Other countries tax supermarkets heavily on food waste and many others see obligatory donations to local food banks. In Denmark and Germany, a mobile application called “Too good to go” provides a great way to access food. In essence, supermarkets and restaurants price up bundles of nearly expired goods and release them on the app. The customer can log in and reserve themselves a mystery food parcel for a bargain price.

This is just one example of where stacks of good products are wasted and plenty of examples of great ways to save food waste and keep costs low for those in need. So, what happens locally? It’s high time we looked into this matter and tried to assess the situation.

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