A list of essential grocery items for a family of four has increased by almost €16 since the turn of last year with items like minced beef, sugar and toilet paper registering hefty increases.

This trend has emerged from an ongoing study being carried out by UHM Voice of the Workers, which is monitoring prices of food and essential items available from three main supermarket chains in Malta from January 2022.

It transpires that the shopping baskets rose by an average of 12% which is equivalent to €15.98 ranging from as low as €11.58 from a particular chain up to €18.48 from another.

During the period under review, it was amply clear that the compensation for the cost of living which in 2022 was a meagre €1.75 per week was well short of the minimum required. The matter was made worse by the fact that this compensation was taxed, meaning that some of it went back to government’s coffers straight away. Assuming households make three monthly visits to the supermarket, then in 2022 their expenses increased by up to €300 annually.

The picture turns even darker for consumers when trying to draw some conclusions on how the situation could map out by the end of 2023. Assuming a price freeze from now till the end of the year, households could face a net increase in expenses to the tune of up to €480 over two years, despite the €9.90 weekly increase which kicked in at the turn of this year.

UHM Voice of the Workers has been calling on the government to exempt both the COLA and the social security contribution from income tax, as a means to boost the workers’ spending power without actually increasing salaries.

Some of the trends that emerged from this study tally with those observed at EU level through Eurostat, most notably the price of sugar which increased by 61% between August 2021 and last March.  In Malta, in a particular supermarket this product more than doubled from €1.95 to €4.19.

In response to these price hikes consumers as switching brands and opt for the cheaper ones, though at times this might result in lower quality products.