Page last updated at 14:11 GMT, Friday, 7 August 2009 15:11 UK

Cuts benefit Brussels shoppers

Mark Sanders
Europe business reporter

Belgian shoppers
Belgian shoppers have seen food prices fall

The bargain hunters are bustling through Abattoir market in the Anderlecht district of Brussels.

There are some reasons to be little more cheerful than last year if you're food shopping in the city.

Prices have fallen for some items, helped by a fall in production costs.

Some fruit and vegetables are cheaper now.

Good weather has led to good crops, strawberries and cherries cost less.

Seasonal foods

Take tomatoes for example, better weather and falls in the cost of fuel have meant farmers have spent less on heating greenhouses, so consumers are paying less.

"Now it's good because there's more food available and there are not as many customers," says one shopper.

A woman browsing the stalls says, "Last year it was really much more expensive but this year it's better. I hope it will stay like that!"

TAKING THE PULSE OF THE GLOBAL ECONOMY
The BBC is Taking the Pulse of the Global Economy, looking at a range of subjects this summer
Consumer behaviour - how have lifestyles changed over the year
Food prices - which remain a concern particularly in many developing economies
Highly volatile energy prices - which have been a major issue in the past year
The plight of migrant workers - as the global recession takes hold in many economies
Housing markets - which have turned from boom to bust in many countries
Rising unemployment levels - as firms cut back because of falling orders

But two ladies looking for what's on offer in the market say, "We don't feel it in our pockets. We just buy a little bit more and so we end up paying the same".

Meat prices haven't moved much in Brussels. Beef is up by about 2% and pork is down by a similar amount.

Away from the local markets, the larger supermarkets have now been offering lower prices on some staple products.

Bread in larger stores is 5% per cent cheaper that last year.

Some supermarkets have been engaged in a price war and milk prices have fallen sharply, by up to 20% in some cases.

However, not everybody is happy. Farmers are angry at the low cost they're being paid for production.

They feel they are being underpaid by supermarkets and other big buyers for their produce.

The European Commission has been buying up unsold butter and milk products to support the diary industry and it is extending the scheme until the end of February next year.



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