Sunday 16 June 2019

Food and drink prices rip-off

Aideen Sheehan

IRISH consumers pay 23pc more, on average, for food than everyone else in Europe.

And when it comes to alcohol we pay nearly twice as much with prices up to 84pc above the norm in the rest of the EU.

However, sipping non-alcoholic drinks won't help your wallet much, as even these are 42pc dearer.

The figures are contained in the Department of Agriculture's Annual Review and Outlook 2006/2007 which has just been published.

Even foods produced in abundance in Ireland cost far more than in other countries - meat is 17pc dearer, fish is 20pc more expensive, and dairy products and eggs cost 29pc more.

Fruit, vegetables and potatoes are a whopping 36pc more expensive, bread and cereal are 20pc dearer, while tobacco is a massive 75pc more expensive.

Denmark is the only country in the EU where food is pricier than in Ireland, and shoppers in neighbouring Britain pay 20pc less than we do.

Only oils and fats are cheaper here - and by just 5pc - than in other countries the figures show.

However, the prices are based on 2004 Eurostat figures, and the new report points out that Irish food prices are now growing much more slowly than elsewhere in Europe.

Food price inflation was just 1.4pc last year compared to 4pc for general inflation.

And at 8pc, the amount of household income we spend on food is less than in most countries in Europe, with new member states often spending twice as big a share as we do.

We spend marginally more on food than we do on alcohol every year, forking out €7.4bn on food and €6.9bn on booze in 2005.

One in every four euro we spend on food now goes on eating out, and meat, bread and cereals are our favourite things to eat judging by the amount we spend on them.

One of the reasons food prices are so high in Ireland and Europe is that official EU policy makes sure they stay that way.

European consumers and taxpayers subsidised agriculture to the tune of €108bn in 2005, both through direct support to farmers and by paying more for food than prevailing world prices. Effectively EU agriculture policy adds 17pc to the price of the food we eat - although this has fallen from a whopping 37pc in the 1980s.

Because Ireland exports a lot of food to the rest of the EU, Irish exporters got an extra €1bn for their produce last year than they would if they had to sell on the cheaper world market.

Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan said that this report showed the all-encompassing nature of the agri-food sector.

"The Food, Drink and Tobacco sector continues to play a vital role in the Irish economy.

"It remains one of the largest indigenous industries both in terms of manufacturing and consumer spend."

Food production was also the backbone of rural development, she said.

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