Ministry Determined to Implement E-Kalathi, Union Groups Demand Action on Tackling Inflation
25 of 45 Key Product Categories Experience Price Surge in August
In August, prices have surged in 25 out of 45 key product categories, with notable increases observed in fresh fish and shellfish as well as in vegetables. This trend, as reported by the Consumer Protection Service of the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, and Industry, mirrors the rise in food sector inflation and the overall inflation rate, which escalated to 2.6% in August compared to 1.5% in July 2023.
According to the most recent Service's data up to September 15, 77% of prices remained unchanged or even dipped to levels previously recorded on May 3.
The Consumer Protection Service, which released the Consumer Product Price Observatory report for August 2023, cited statistics revealing that food sector inflation reached 9.05% between January and August 2023. This is a rise from 8.9% for January-July and 8.75% for January-June.
Compared to June 2023, there's a notable price hike of 1.91%, driven predominantly by a 4.5% surge in fresh and processed agricultural products. Some of the steepest increases include fresh fish and shellfish (20.5%), vegetables (6.1%), laundry detergents (3.5%), legumes (3%), rice (2.8%), flour (2.5%), sugar (2.2%), and biscuits (2.3%).
However, there's a silver lining: 20 other categories either held steady or showcased price drops, according to the Service. Most notably, frozen shellfish prices plummeted by 9.2%, frozen fish by 8.3%, bread by 3%, charcoal and toilet paper both by 2%, and pre-cooked/frozen meats by 1.6%. Additionally, baby diapers and eggs saw decreases of 1.2% and 1.1% respectively.
Staying on the topic, trade union organizations, PEO, SEK, DEOK, the Cyprus Consumer Association (KSK), and the Pan-Cyprian Consumer and Quality of Life Union (PEKPOIZO), have collectively voiced their strong dissatisfaction with current measures. They believe these strategies have proven ineffective in addressing the surge in prices and do not adequately protect consumers.
In a meeting held today at the PEO premises, representatives from PEO, SEK, DEOK, KSK, and PEKPOIZO discussed and exchanged views on combating inflation and the escalating cost of living.
According to a joint statement, a broader meeting has been scheduled for September 27, 2023, at 3:00 pm at the SEK offices. This gathering aims to include additional trade union and social organizations and will focus on formulating specific proposals. These proposals will cover areas such as reducing the cost of electricity, lowering fuel prices, decreasing the prices of essential consumer goods like food and beverages, implementing effective measures to cut lending rates, combating profiteering, promoting transparency, and shielding income purchasing power from intense inflationary pressures and economic inequalities.
As a preliminary step, these organizations plan to request a meeting with the President of the Republic and the Speaker of the Parliament. They will urge the swift implementation of comprehensive policy measures to tackle the escalating costs. Depending on the response they receive, subsequent actions will be determined.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Energy, Commerce, and Industry has expressed strong intentions to implement the "e-kalathi" system. Minister Giorgos Papanastasiou, in a statement to KYPE yesterday, emphasized that the ministry believes the e-kalathi to be an essential tool in today's age. This platform aims to give consumers the convenience to decide where to purchase their chosen products for their shopping baskets.
Following a deadlock in the recent session of the Parliamentary Committee on Commerce concerning the e-kalathi bill, Minister Papanastasiou addressed the issue. He expressed his perplexity regarding objections over an alleged lack of public consultation, asserting that there have been numerous deliberations on the matter. Given the current scenario of rising food prices and consumer goods for various reasons, he reiterated the ministry's commitment to providing a tool that consumers can use at their discretion.
Mr. Papanastasiou further shared findings from a recent consumer protection agency survey. It was found that purchasing identical products from different supermarkets resulted in price variations in the basket of up to 30-40%. He posed a question about the potential of transitioning this price comparison system from physical to digital. "Why shouldn't a consumer be able to choose their preferred supermarket online instead of visiting in person?" he remarked.