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These same products TWICE more expensive in Belgium than in France: here’s why

  • Post category:Economy News
  • Reading time:3 mins read

You contacted us via the orange Alert us button to denounce the price difference between certain products sold in supermarkets in Belgium and France. While the stores are located a few kilometers from each other, prices can vary greatly. We checked on the spot.

We bought something to make pasta with cheese in a sign in Belgium: pasta, fresh cream, mozzarella and grated cheese.

We then traveled 11 kilometers of road and crossed the border to join the same sign on the French side. We put the same ingredients from the same brands in our shopping cart.

A basket that cost us 17.93 euros in Belgium now costs 9.12€ in France. It’s almost half the price.

Gosh, that’s not normal!

Asked about the parking lot of the French supermarket, customers expected a difference, but not to this extent. “Gosh, that’s not normal!“, reacts a lady. “From single to double, I haven’t checked that, but it’s cheaper, yes“, said a man. “A box of ravioli or cassoulet, there is a difference of 2 euros“says a customer.

The difference has fallen sharply in recent years

This price difference between France and Belgium has been well known to some for several years. According to a specialist we interviewed, however, the gap tends to narrow over time. “Belgium has always been more expensive at the agro-food level. On the other hand, and contrary to the examples given here, the difference has greatly diminished in recent years. We were historically at prices that were orders of magnitude 15% more expensive. Today, Belgium is only a few percent more expensive compared to neighboring countries. This difference will remain. Belgium will remain a more expensive country“, says Pierre-Alexandre Billiet, economist and editor-in-chief of a magazine dedicated to mass distribution.

How to explain these differences? Two major factors are pointed out by the expert.

Explanation N°1: the complexity of the Belgian market

The complexity of the Belgian market is one of the factors that explains the price differences. “A very complicated country. Now you have to put all the ingredients in three languages. Political complexity is a first thing“, specifies Pierre-Alexandre Billiet.

Explanation N°2: strong competitiveness in France and the Netherlands

The second important factor concerns the competition between supermarkets. “The neighboring countries, mainly the Netherlands and France, are excessively competitive. There really is a fight for the lowest prices“, explains Pierre-Alexandre Billiet.

To conclude, the specialist points to a paradox. If the food industry really considered environmental and health impact when making products, we would have to pay twice as much for our food.