basic foods
Citizens have a right to basic foods - even in a cost of living crisis, considers Portugal's Order of Nutritionists

Portugal slammed for “national inaction” over IVA on basic foods

Country is not following example of Spain, which has slashed IVA to help cash-strapped citizens

Portugal’s Order of Nutritionists has slammed the government for “national inaction” in not acting promptly to help cash-strapped citizens purchase basic foods.

Back in October, the Order made a case for slashing IVA on what it called “essential foods”, stressing that current taxes weigh heavily on the average family’s food bill.

Yesterday, Spain went ahead and did exactly as the Order suggested for Portugal. Spanish citizens will be benefiting from “an exceptional measure” taken at “an exceptional time”, considers Alexandra Bento, president of Portugal’s nutritionists’ body – while Portugal’s (who generally earn a great deal less than Spanish counterparts) will not.

“This is a measure that should have been considered in the State Budget for 2023 to help Portuguese families face the coming period, which, with the combination of inflation and the energy crisis, will not be easy”, she said in a hard-hitting statement.

Bento argues that the “social state has duties towards its citizens and should not, and cannot, leave anyone behind”.

Yet, she admits, “Portugal did not want” to take the initiative, even when the reasons for it were laid out so starkly.

As Alexandra Bento stressed back in October, a decision not to reduce taxes on essential foods is one that restricts citizens’ “rights to adequate food”.

Her proposal (which involved removing IVA completely from foods currently paying a rate of 6%) was based on a European directive from April that says that each country in the European Union now has a margin to review its VAT rate structure on certain products, to respond more adequately to the social problems of its population.

Products considered essential for a healthy diet are bread, rice, pasta, vegetables, fruit, milk, yoghurt, cheese, meat, fish, eggs, dried pulses, fresh pulses, butter and olive oil.

As Alexandra Bento explained in October: “What we managed to understand is that, with the current VAT regime, (a) typical family with (an) essential food basket (…) would spend around €126 per week, which means that per month it would be around €545 euros and per year €6,594 euros.” 

Removing VAT from the equation on essential items would bring a weekly saving of around €7, a monthly saving of roughly €31 – and an annual saving of €374.

Nutritionists’ criticism comes at a time when the government is already doing ‘badly’ in the public eye. The insinuation that it cannot be bothered to help citizens have an adequate diet will not help.

Spain’s PM Pedro Sanchèz announced various levels of VAT reduction yesterday. Basic foods on 5% VAT rates are being relieved completely of the tax (these include break, fruit, milk, vegetables and legumes), while those in the 10% bracket are reducing to 5%.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com