The survey, conducted under the Eurostat-OECD Purchasing Power Parities Programme, examined the prices of around 500 comparable products in 37 European countries last year, and measured them against an EU average.
“Norway is the most expensive country of all 37 for food, alcoholic beverages and tobacco, whilst Denmark is the most expensive for non-alcoholic beverages. Amongst the member states, Denmark represents the most expensive country also for food. Finland has the highest price level of alcoholic beverages in the EU,” writes Eurostat, which is the statistical office of the European Union.
The data reveals that in 2009, the price level of a comparable basket of food and non-alcoholic beverages was more than twice as high in the most expensive EU member state than in the cheapest one.
However, when compared to data recorded in 2003, prices for all food and beverage groups tracked in the different markets had converged, with price differences having decreased by up to around 30 per cent.
Prices against EU average
The survey results are expressed in ‘price level indices (PLIs), which are calculated as a country’s purchasing power parity (PPP) divided by its annual average exchange rate. PLIs are then used to provide an indication of a country’s price levels compared to a European Union average.
Using this measurement, Denmark was found to be nearly 40 per cent above the European average, while Ireland, Finland, Luxembourg, Austria, Belgium, Germany and France were between 10 and 30 per cent above average. Italy, Cyprus, Sweden and Greece were up to 10 per cent above the average.
On the other end of the scale, the Netherlands, Spain, the United Kingdom, Slovenia, Malta and Portugal were up to 10 per cent below average. Latvia, Slovakia, Estonia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Lithuania had price levels for food and non-alcoholic beverages which were between 10 and 30 per cent below the European average, while Bulgaria, Romania and Poland were between 30 and 40 per cent below.
The survey also drilled down into individual food product categories, including bread and cereals, meat, fish, and dairy products. According to Eurostat, these account for 17, 25, 3 and 19 per cent of household expenditure on food respectively.
“Amongst all 37 countries Switzerland shows the highest price levels for meat and fish, while Norway has the highest PLIs for dairy products and Denmark for bread and cereals. Denmark is also the most expensive country for meat within the EU, whilst Belgium is the most expensive for fish and Cyprus for milk, cheese and eggs,” writes the report.
“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is the cheapest country in all sub-groups of products. Among the EU Member States, the lowest price level for meat and dairy products is observed in Poland, for bread and cereals in Bulgaria and for fish in Lithuania.”
When comparing prices of products within these different groups, meat was found to have the highest price dispersion, while dairy products had the lowest price dispersion.
The survey also tracked prices for oils and fats (including butter and margarine and other edible oils), fruits and vegetables (including fresh, frozen, preserved or processed products), and ‘other’ food products (including sugar, confectionery, ice creams, jams and other spreads.
Amongst all 37 countries the lowest prices for all the above categories are again found in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, while the highest price for oils and fats are in Switzerland, for fruits and vegetables in Norway and for other food in Denmark.