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Consumers fret over price hikes before Christmas

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Consumer associations are concerned over spiralling prices this Christmas making the festive table and gift-giving more expensive.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, the Cyprus Consumer Association chair, Marios Drousiotis, said prices of essential goods have been rising since the beginning of the year.

Quoting data from the Cyprus Statistical Services, Drousiotis said a Cypriot household is now paying 5.6% more than in January.

“The overall consumer index has recorded an increase of 5.6% in October compared to January this year.

“This means that if a household were spending €1000 on bills, food and services, it would now have to dish out another €60 or so”.

Drousiotis added that housing costs, including maintenance and utility bills, have gone up by 12%.

Clothing has gone up by 18%, the cost of transport increased by 13%, mainly due to increased fuel prices.

And the price of pork meat has increased by 6% in October compared to the previous month.

“These increases appear to be here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Therefore, Christmas could be a tough period for many Cypriots with the price hike.

“Already producers are contemplating imposing more increases, like one of the major milk producers.

“The dairy firm pulled back, but other industries are unlikely to do the same.”

Drousiotis said the government should be looking at ways of alleviating pressure on low-income groups.

“Especially when it comes to electricity bills. We find the government’s move to reduce the VAT for low-income groups from 19% to 5%, a step in the right direction.”

He pointed out that about 35,000 households belong to vulnerable groups and are entitled to reduced pricing by the electricity authority (EAC), and 15,000 households are unaware they are eligible for the VAT discount.

He believes the EAC should inform consumers by letter that they are entitled to this reduction.

“Although the current flat 10% discount on electricity is a good move, it could have been more targeted towards low-income groups.

“That way, groups financially better off would be excluded, to the benefit of  those on lower-income who are really struggling.”

Meanwhile, Marios Antoniou, general secretary of the Cyprus Retailers Association, told media outlet Stockwatch that “there have been a lot of requests from various suppliers for price increases” for several months now.

When it comes to products that justify an increase, it will be absorbed partly by retailers, but increases will touch the consumers.

Antoniou said there is a request for an increase in the price of cleaning products (washing powders, fabric softeners, washing liquid), which invoke increased costs, either due to the increase in transport fares or plastic.

Regarding the increases that have already been imposed on essential products, he said the price of spaghetti and flour has increased by up to 15%.