Greeks fork out heavily for their food

Greeks spend a more sizable chunk of their disposable income than most Europeans on food thanks to low wages and spiraling costs and are the highest relative spenders on health and education within the EU, according to figures released yesterday. The figures, which are the most recent available, were published by the EU’s statistical body, Eurostat, and focus on the spending habits of citizens in the Union’s then-15 member states during 1999. The report shows that Greeks spent 16.6 percent of their disposable income on food during that year. Only the Italians and Portuguese put out a higher percentage. Rather than indicating Greeks’ love for satisfying their appetite, the statistic suggests that disposable income in Greece was particularly low by EU standards. Five years on, Greeks still seem to be concerned about the amount of cash they hand over for food. A recent study by the General Consumers Organization of Greece found that 57 percent of Greeks were troubled by the prices of food products. In another survey, conducted by the Consumer Protection Center (KEPKA), 90 percent of Greeks questioned admitted to checking the price of food before buying it. According to the Eurostat figures, the poorest fifth of the population spent almost 30 percent of their income on food, while the richest 20 percent forked out half that percentage to feed itself. By comparison, the poorest Britons spent just under 20 percent on food and the richest handed over 12.7 percent of their disposable income. Statistics show that food prices in Greece spiraled upward by 13.7 percent between 1996 and 2000 while only rising by 3.6 percent in the rest of the EU. The only comparable price hikes were in Ireland, where the cost of food increased by 12 percent over the same period. Greeks were also being hit in the pocket when it came to spending on health, education, clothes, shoes and phone bills. Greeks spent more of their disposable income on all of these items than citizens from any of the other EU states in 1999. Greeks were in line with the EU, however, in reducing their spending on meat between 1994 and 1999.