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Christmas table in a Swedish home.. Wikipedia

Swedish Christmas food much more expensive this year

According to a survey carried out by Statistics Sweden, several of the products that are traditionally on the Swedes' Christmas table have increased significantly in price in the run-up to Christmas.

Published: December 19, 2022, 6:13 am

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    Costs for food have increased sharply and for Christmas tables this year it will be even more expensive than other foods. While the general price of food rose by 17 percent during the year, almost double the general price increase of consumer goods and services which rose by 9 percent, it is much worse in some categories traditionally associated with Christmas.

    “During 2022, much of the Christmas table we have put together has increased in price more than the general price development for food, which in turn developed faster than inflation,” said Carl Mårtensson, price statistician at Statistics Sweden in a press release.

    “Oranges, cured and smoked salmon and herring are the products that have risen in price the most. Oranges have become almost twice as expensive during the year.”

    Since earlier this year, an explanatory model from the food companies’ side has been that food production has become more expensive at all levels since the war in Ukraine. But there are several holes in that statement which rather point to a profit interest behind Swedish price increases that are not found in our neighboring countries.

    Some goods have increased sharply in price

    The prices of oranges have risen by 97,8 percent since December 2021. Traditional food that has been on Swedish Christmas tables for hundreds of years, such as grilled and smoked salmon, has since the same time risen by 35,5 percent, while the price of canned herring has risen by 28,7 percent. Other goods which have seen a sharp increase and which are considered a basic commodity all year round are eggs, where the price increase is a whopping 24,8 percent.

    “Herring, chocolate and cured and smoked salmon usually become cheaper in December, while the price of pork and sweets other than chocolate usually go up. In recent years, the prices of pork and sweets have been raised in time for Christmas and then lowered in January,” Mårtensson added.

    And there is currently nothing to indicate that any reduced food prices are on the horizon. Although prices of staples such as wheat and cooking oil have fallen since the start of the war in Ukraine, prices have not kept pace.

    “We believed that the prices would stabilize because world market prices for wheat and rapeseed, for example, have fallen. Exports from Ukraine have also started again,” Erik Glans, economist at the Institute of Economics, told DI.

    That has not been the case. The Swedish price increases are frankly much larger than those of their neighboring countries. While food prices increased by 17,2 percent in Sweden from January 1 this year to October 1, the same increase in Norway was 13,1 percent. For Denmark, the increase was 15,7 percent.

    The explanation is to be found in the fact that such a large part of the Swedish food trade is concentrated in a few large groups. ICA, COOP and Axfood (Willys and Hemköp) control around 90 percent of the Swedish market. ICA alone controls almost half of the market.

    Food giants set the prices – make billions

    These food giants are currently making billions in profits that the Swedes are forced to pay. ICA, for example, made a profit of SEK 6 billion last year. Several cases have been revealed that show how the food giants raise prices far more than the producers do.

    Among other things, an example involving a flour farmer named Helge Berglund drew attention last autumn. Berglund has no intermediaries before his flour ended up on store shelves. He was forced to raise the price of his flour by one krona due to increased production costs. ICA, for its part, then chose to directly raise the price further by three krona.

    “All of a sudden the price was SEK 42. People started calling me and wondering what I was doing,” Berglund told Expressen.

    Ida Lind, market expert at Ekologiska lantbrukare, explained to TT that it was not a unique event but something seen around the country:

    “I have called around to growers who confirm that the stores have raised the prices of their goods much more than the costs have increased in terms of production,” she wrote in an SMS to TT.

    When Staffan Ahlqvist, store manager at Ica Maxi in Sandviken, which sells Berglund’s flour, was contacted by TT, he did not receive an answer as to why ICA chose to raise the price of the flour far more than the producer did. However, he gave an explanation for the price increase to Gefle Dagblad.

    “We see it as a premium product and think that the consumer can therefore pay a higher price.”

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