The food products that are more expensive than ever in Spain

The Spanish economy has suffered rocketing inflation rates in the last year. It has been felt until mostly in utilities bills, but now it is causing prices on food products to increase, some of them in particular.

supermarket majorca spain
Historic inflation now hits the kitchen table in Spain. Photo: Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP

Spaniards have been feeling the pinch of inflation in the last year. In October, electricity bills were sixty-three percent higher than the previous year, according to statistics from Spain’s Instituto Nacional de Estadística (INE). Spain’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) closed the year at 6.5 percent, fractionally lower than forecast but still the highest level in almost thirty years.

The inflation rate reflects the strongest rise in 29 years, a rise in prices that has been caused by rocketing fuel and electricity bills, and the direction of travel seems to be one way, unfortunately: the CPI has now experienced twelve consecutive increases.

But the latest INE figures published this week show that inflation is now being reflected in food and non-alcoholic beverages: prices were 5 percent higher overall in December 2021 than in the same month of 2020, the highest number since the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing recession that crippled the Spanish economy. 

In the last year spanish consumers have faced the sharpest price increases of any major European economy, and they are now being felt in everyday items: olive oil is 26.7 percent more expensive than in December 2020, pasta 15.2 percent, soft drinks 11.7, fresh fruit percent 9 percent and fresh fish 6.6 percent.

Even poultry meat (6.5 percent), fruit juices (6.3 percent), eggs (6.2 percent), milk (5 percent), coffee (4.6 percent), and bread (3.8 percent) have seen slight price increases that will be felt in households across Spain. 

Two more specific price increases that may concern some Spaniards more than others, however, are on beer and tobacco. Beer prices have risen due to an increase in the price of cereals, and it is believed that the government intends to increase tax incomes on tobacco by at least 5.5 percent.

In the last year food and beverage prices had been somewhat stable, and relatively unaffected by inflation, but since October they have increased from 1.7 percent to 5 percent to round out the year. 

Looking forward, the economic forecast does not look promising: the core inflation rate – a metric which actually deducts electricity prices, a far more volatile product, from the calculation – is a measure used by economics to forecast whether short-term price rises are turning into structural ones.

This core inflation indicator reached 2.1 percent year-on-year in December , the highest rate since March 2013, and it represents the fifth consecutive month in which core inflation has risen.

Throughout the last year economists had hoped that the recent price shock would be transitory, and tied to the fate of the volatile utilities market, particularly the international natural gas price, but speaking last week, former Spanish Minister and now vice president of the European Central Bank, Luis de Guindos, suggested that inflation, and by extension, price increases, ‘may not be so transitory.’ 

According to a recent survey by the Bank of Spain, 60 percent of national companies plan to raise their prices in the coming year. 

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Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Talk of abortion policy reform and proposed menstrual leave has dominated Spanish discourse this week, but it’s also dividing Spain’s coalition government.

Spanish government divided over proposed menstruation leave bill

Spain’s PSOE-fronted coalition government recently outlined proposals that have dominated public discourse in the country.

But the legislation, which would allow women over the age of 16 to get abortions without the permission of their parents and introduce ‘menstruation leave’ for those suffering serious period pains, has not only divided Spanish society but the government itself.

The proposals would make Spain a leader in the Western world, and the first European Union member state to introduce menstrual leave, and changes to abortion law would overturn a 2015 law passed by the conservative People’s Party that forced women aged 16 and 17 to obtain parental consent.

The wide-ranging bill would also end VAT on menstrual products, increase the free distribution of them in schools, and allow between three and five days of leave each month for women who experience particularly painful periods.

READ MORE: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

Menstrual leave

Ángela Rodríguez, the Secretary of State for Equality, told Spanish newspaper El Periódico in March that “it’s important to be clear about what a painful period is – we’re not talking about slight discomfort, but about serious symptoms such as diarrhoea, fever and bad headaches.”

“When there’s a problem that can’t be solved medically, we think it’s very sensible to have temporary sick leave,” she added.

Cabinet politics

The proposals are slated for approval in cabinet next week, and judging by reports in the Spanish media this week, it is far from reaching a consensus. It is believed the intra-cabinet tensions stem not from the changes to abortion and contraception accessibility, but rather the proposed menstrual leave.

The junior coalition partner in government, Podemos, largely supports the bill, but it is believed some in the PSOE ranks are more sceptical about the symbolism and employment effects of the proposed period pain policy.

Vice President and Minister of Economic Affairs, Nadia Calviño, said this week: “Let me repeat it very clearly: this government believes and is absolutely committed to gender equality and we will never adopt measures that may result in a stigmatisation of women.”

Yet Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, who is viewed as further to the left than President Pedro Sánchez and other PSOE cabinet ministers, is reportedly “absolutely in favour” of the measure to reform Spain’s “deeply masculinised” labour market.

Sources in the Spanish media have this week also reported that some PSOE cabinet ministers feel the proposed paid leave not only plays up to stereotypes of women, or stigmatises them, like Calviño says, but also places them at a disadvantage in the world of work.

Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration, José Luis Escrivá, stated that while the government should seek to improve women’s employment protections, it should also seek to boost their participation in the labour market under “better conditions.”

In that vein, some feel menstrual leave could be used a form of of employment discrimination similarly to how pregnancy has been historically, and the policy would, in that sense, actually be more regressive than progressive in enshrining women’s workplace rights. 

READ MORE: Spain eyes free contraception for under-25’s

Trade unions

Trade unions are also sceptical of the menstrual leave legislation. Cristina Antoñanzas, deputy secretary of UGT, one of Spain’s largest trade unions, has echoed those in the cabinet who feel the proposals could “stigmatise women.” She added that “it does women a disservice.”

Public opinion

A survey run by INTIMINA found that 67 percent of Spanish women are in favour of regulating menstrual leave, but also that 75 percent fear it is “a double-edged sword” that could generate labor discrimination.

The survey also found that 88 percent of women who suffer from disabling and frequent period pain have gone to work despite it. Seventy-one percent admitted that they have normalised working with pain.

Cabinet showdown

The proposed menstrual leave policy will be debated in cabinet next week when the Council of Ministers debates and approves the broader abortion and contraception reforms. According to sources in the Spanish media, and many cabinet ministers themselves, it seems a consensus on menstruation leave is a long way off.