The cost of food continued to soar in September, according to the latest data from the National Statistics Office (NSO), having a knock-on effect on the overall cost of living in Malta despite a general decrease across other European Union member states.
The data, published this week, shows that the cost of food, including from supermarkets and grocers, as well as takeaways and restaurants, increased by 1.89 percentage points compared to August.
This made the annual inflation rate 8.8% for food, with restaurants and takeaways reaching 6.7% and foodstuffs purchased in shops hitting 9.5%.
Data from the NSO’s Retail Price Index shows that while the general inflation in September was almost the same as in August, 4.1% compared to 4%, the cost of food increased twofold.
“The highest annual inflation rates in September 2023 were registered in food (8.8%) and Housing (8.1%)
The cost of housing went up by 8.1% in September alone, at a time many find rental prices already unaffordable.
According to figures from June, the cheapest place to rent a two-bedroom property is Fgura at €554, with prices surpassing several thousand euros a month in areas such as Sliema, St Julians, and Naxxar.
While the rest of the EU has experienced increases in inflation due to the war in Ukraine, it is heading towards normal values in many states. But in Malta, it remains higher than the average, mainly due to the price of food.
While many operating in the sector of food importation argue that most of the increases are due to higher prices from abroad, local artificial increases are not excluded.
While the government and the Maltese competition authorities have been almost absent in studying what is happening and taking any measures, many retailers complain of weekly increases by their suppliers, mostly Maltese agents and importers, who usually have a dominant position in the market.
Labour MEP Alex Agius Saliba recently asked the European Commission to investigate Maltese food importers for antitrust violations.
In many cases, the price of food items in Malta is much higher than elsewhere on the European continent.