Spain's consumers seek taxes cut on fresh food to ease supermarket price hikes
Spain's main consumer organisation on Tuesday called on the government to suspend taxes on the sale of basic foodstuffs as a stop-gap measure to help poor families hit by a sharp rise in supermarket prices.
Spain's main consumer organisation on Tuesday called on the government to suspend taxes on the sale of basic foodstuffs as a stop-gap measure to help poor families hit by a sharp rise in supermarket prices. The proposal echoes that of supermarket chains and the conservative opposition People's Party as a means of combating annual food price inflation that hit 13.8% in August, the highest since 1994, according to the National Statistics Institute.
The higher prices are hitting poorer families particularly hard, research shows, curtailing their capacity to buy the fresh fruit, vegetables, bread and meat that form part of Spain's diet. Earlier this month, Spain's labour minister - the most senior government official from junior, far-left coalition partner Unidas Podemos - tried unsuccessfully to persuade large supermarket chains to offer a basket of fresh produce at prices fixed until January.
Yolanda Diaz won initial support from a part of the government for her bid to secure an agreement with supermarkets, but retailers rejected the move saying they were already making "an extraordinary effort" to shield consumers from rising costs, such as energy. Ileana Izverniceanu, a spokeswoman for consumer organisation OCU, said reviewing taxes was the fastest and effective way to help to households. "Food prices are not going to drop. Just as we have had tax cuts on energy bills, we should temporarily suspend all taxes linked to healthy food products," she told a news conference.
A government source told Reuters a VAT reduction was "not among the options we are considering right now". The government's spokesman said on Tuesday it was evaluating a tax package targeting wealthier citizens.
An annual OCU survey of a basket of basic goods in 80 supermarkets around the country recorded prices rising an average of 15.2% over the year to May, the highest in 34 years. Food banks are reporting an increase over the past three months in young families who are working but can no longer make their earnings stretch far enough.
"Everything has gone up," said Daniela Safari, 32, a mother with a seven month-old baby, told Reuters as she queued at a food bank in Madrid at the weekend. She could no longer afford supermarket milk, fruit or vegetables. "When we arrived nine months ago we spent 100 euros at the supermarket. Now we need twice as much."
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