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Economy

Price of Greece’s Hailed Feta Cheese Brings Political Battle Over Food Tax 

ATHENS – While Greeks are grumbling over high prices at supermarkets largely attributed to corporate greed – and people’s willingness to pay – the country’s renowned feta cheese has sparked a political debate over accountability.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has pointed fingers at multinationals for maintaining high prices despite being fined by his government for price gouging, as have some domestic firms, but the cost of grocery shopping remains a consistent grievance.

While olive oil prices have soared – €15 for one liter (33.8 ounces) of a decent brand – what triggered outrage was the price of feta, another of the country’s symbolic agricultural products sourced from nearby farms.

Leading up to the June 6-9 European Parliament elections, Mitsotakis faced criticism from his major rival, SYRIZA opposition leader Stefanos Kasselakis, a Greek-American businessman who accused the premier of being out of touch with prices and their impact on citizens.

In Parliament, Mitsotakis stated that his government couldn’t afford to reduce the Value Added Tax (VAT) on food, which is as high as 24 percent for some commodities. Critics argue that such a high VAT is regressive and disproportionately affects the poor and working class.

At a supermarket, Kasselakis highlighted the cost, €6.28 ($6.83) for 400 grams (14 ounces) of a packaged brand, as evidence of the government’s failure to curb profiteering.

Government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis countered that “the last thing citizens need is political deception” and clarified that Mitsotakis was comparing 500-gram (17.63 ounces) packages across European Union countries, not half packages.

Marinakis explained that if the price is calculated per kilo (2.2 pounds) from the data presented by Mitsotakis in Parliament, then the products Kasselakis had pointed to were even cheaper than what the Premier had stated.

“High living costs are the biggest problem for every household. We are trying to mitigate its consequences with serious measures, including income increases, hefty fines, and targeted interventions,” Marinakis added.

In an interview with Alpha TV, Mitsotakis intensified criticism of Kasselakis’s economic proposals, stating that the Leftist leader’s ideas would cost €45 billion ($48.75 billion) over four years.

“I must caution citizens that if these proposals were ever implemented, the country would regress to a state of oversight and bankruptcy because, quite simply, that money doesn’t exist,” he warned, despite the economy showing signs of growth.

“Citizens remember, and the last thing they want is an apprentice magician who will make promises – as the same party has done in the past – without substance,” he added, drawing parallels between Kasselakis and his predecessor, Alexis Tsipras.

The reason why the government didn’t impose heavier fines or conditions on companies maintaining high prices wasn’t specified, with a study by the National Bank of Greece identifying ‘Greedflation’ as the major problem, along with rising salaries.

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