ECONOMY

Food prices are ‘unjustifiably high’

Food prices in Greece remain at unjustifiably high levels, according to the European Commission. At a time when commodity and fuel prices are dropping, purchasing power is shrinking and labor costs are either unchanged or declining, food prices in Greece and the rest of the European Union are rising. The Commission’s Directorate-General for Agriculture has found that while farm products are becoming cheaper, consumer prices are rising. For example, in December 2008 the price of soft wheat dropped by 46 percent year-on-year, durum wheat by 47 percent, corn by 48 percent, milk by 35 percent and butter by 23 percent. Across the EU, food prices grew by an average 4.1 percent annually, with most categories posting significant growth in Greece too: The price of rice rose 12.4 percent, of bread 4.9 percent, flour 3.99 percent, pasta 10.8 percent, milk 4.9 percent and fresh fruit 17.5 percent, while the only product to buck the trend was olive oil, the price of which fell by 4.3 percent, though this was still a far cry from the 21.2 percent decline in producer prices. The rise in food prices continued into January, according to provisional data compiled by the National Statistics Service. Fuel prices in Greece have also curiously remained at high levels even though the price of Brent has dropped by 69 percent from July 2008. Refinery prices for unleaded gasoline grew by 17.65 percent in the period from January 2 to February 13, while retail prices rose by 10 percent.