• The Croissant contradiction

    Croissant for 35 cents in a Dutch supermarket. Photo: Gy. Csák

    A few days ago, my son, who recently began university in the Netherlands, sent me a few pictures he took in a local supermarket. Truth be told, I put him up to it because I was curious after coming across data on unbalanced food price inflation in Europe.

    In the small town where he lives, near Amsterdam, a croissant costs 0.35 euros or, if they’re on offer, three for a euro. 

    During my next trip to the shops, I checked the biggest local grocery chain here in Czechia. One croissant cost 12.9 CZK, or 0.53 euros. That’s 50% more expensive than in the Netherlands.

    I know it’s just one item, but it looks out of place given the average annual salary in the Netherlands is almost double that in Czechia. What we’re experiencing here is a fundamental change: although wages are going up in Eastern Europe, prices are rising way faster, ending a decades-long trend when lower wages meant lower prices in the region.

    In August, on average, bread in the European Union was 18% more expensive than a year ago. But the price rise in every Western European country was below that average. People in the Netherlands pay less than 10% more, while here, in Prague, prices have gone up almost 30% and in my homeland Hungary 66%.

    I wonder how fair it is that millions of Central and Eastern Europeans work in the food industry in Western Europe and send much of their hard-earned money home, only to see it worth so much less in the grocery store.

    I’m happy for my son, but I worry about the financial security of my friends and family here. Who will pay the price? Not just of bread, but of rising inequality.

    This article is part of the "The bitter taste of rising food prices" edition
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