What goes into a shopping basket in Greece costs up to 66 percent more than in Germany or the Netherlands. Greek families are now being forced to cut down on food – for the first time since 1974, food sales are steadily falling. The richest 20 percent of the Greek population consumes 5.90 times more than the poorest 20 percent. Continuing price rises of basic goods are causing heightened concern. The high cost of living is now threatening the daily lives of people who are forced to cut costs in all areas, even food, in order to make ends meet. The National Statistics Service’s retail sales index figures indicate a new poverty level. Since December, there has been a steady reduction in food sales (5 percent in December and 6.6 percent in January). According to the latest report by the European Commission, 49 percent of Greeks say they have already reduced purchases of various goods, 73 percent are no longer planning to buy a new car, 82 percent have decided against buying a home and 74 percent against having repairs done to their homes. One in three Greeks has difficulty in paying the rent or mortgage installment, having meat or fish on the table every two days or heating their homes adequately. Nearly half of those with low incomes say they are pessimistic about the future and are expecting more price rises over the next few months. (In Spain the corresponding percentage is just 9 percent, in France 7 and Italy 6.4 percent.) Today the percentage of the population that lives on the poverty line stands at 20 percent, with most of the burden being borne by pensioners, single-parent families, the unemployed, young people and immigrants. A fifth cannot afford to buy a personal computer, 11.31 percent cannot afford a washing machine and 22.3 percent a car. Meanwhile two-thirds (523,122 people) say they cannot afford extraordinary expenses and 79.3 percent don’t have the money for a week’s holiday. About 400,000 people say they have not been able to afford a visit to a doctor. Telling comparisons Greece also has the highest cost of living in Europe, according to a recent survey by the Consumer Protection Center (KEPKA) on supermarket prices. Greeks pay -215.70 for 86 of the basic goods, for which Germans pay -162.71. For example, a kilo of yoghurt costs -0.93 in Germany but -2.49 in Greece. Fresh milk costs -0.66 in Germany but -0.94 in Greece. Local farm products such as feta cheese and red (Florina) peppers cost more in Greece than in any other European country. «Consumers look for discounts, buy less and mend their shoes instead of buying new ones. They cut costs wherever they can. But there is a large sector of the population that has no more margin for economizing – thousands of Greeks that are struggling to put food on the table every day,» said KEPKA’s president Nikos Tsemberlidis.