"I've only bought a handful of clams, enough to give the soup a bit of life. You can see price changes on everything: meat, fish, bread...everything." Pepa had been shopping in the indoor market in the Malaga district of Ciudad Jardín. On the way out she passed Sebastián who was heading straight for the frozen king prawns he liked. "I always buy just the right amount so as not to go over budget."
Everyone in Malaga province and elsewhere in Spain is seeing the prices of basic food and household cleaning items going up, but now figures from Spain's National Institute of Statistics (INE) for the past two decades show that the increase in the past year in these basic items within Spain's Consumer Price Index (CPI), has been five times higher than the average rise every year since 2002.
The INE analysed the prices of 176 food and non-alcoholic drink products, and 12 drinks containing alcohol from the CPI and discovered that they have risen by between 38 and 60% in the past 20 years. Not only that: basic food items like milk, bread and flour have increased in price more in Malaga than the rest of the country. In the past year, they have gone up by more than 11%, whereas between 2002 and 2021 the increase had only been around 2% per year.
"We all talk about energy and fuel costs, but the increase in the price of the weekly shop is incredible, especially basic things like meat, fish and bread," said the president of the Malaga Consumers' Union, Jesús Burgos. He added that, in his view, the rise is due to speculation, not inflation. "This isn't just due to increased production costs; you have to look at what the distributors are doing," he explained.
Rising energy costs and the war in Ukraine are putting pressure on the primary sector. "Something has to be done. Right now some products are being sold for prices that don't cover the costs," stressed the head of the Asaja young farmers' association in Malaga province, Baldomero Bellido.
Household products are also being affected by rising prices. Since August last year, they have increased by nearly five times more than the average for the past 19 years. And, again, the increase has been higher in Malaga than the national average.
Alcoholic drinks are the only items for which prices in Malaga have risen less than the national average, but they have still increased considerably.
"Because electricity is so expensive now, many farmers aren't bothering to irrigate what they are growing because they know they won't be able to charge as much as they need to, to cover costs. Some of them are just giving up altogether," said Bellido.
As a result of rising prices, many families are now only buying essential items and cutting back where they can. They also hunt for bargains, but nowadays, those are often proving hard to find.
"I liked the look of some of that fish... But, heck, just the clams for today, and tomorrow... Lord knows," said Pepa, continuing to watch what she was spending.