The Price of Essential Food Items Worldwide

Published on

In the early days of the pandemic, watching crowds of angry shoppers fight over toilet rolls left the rest of us scratching our heads in bemusement. And let’s be fair, the memes were hilarious. But empty shelves and rising costs are no laughing matter, especially when it comes to our food.

Get Our Activist Investing Case Study!

Get The Full Activist Investing Study In PDF

Q3 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more

So researchers from NetCredit decided to look at the cost of essential food items in every country in the world. They put together an imaginary basket of foods we buy every day. They then checked that against price lists on supermarket websites. They also looked at national average wages to see how much these items cost in real terms.

The imaginary basket included the following foods:

Breakfast cereal | eggs (12) | chicken breast (500g / 1lb) | 500g (16 oz.) of local cheese | vegetable oil (1 liter bottle) | fresh white bread (500g) | milk (regular) (1 liter) | potato (1kg / 2lb) | tomato (1kg / 2lb) | banana (1kg / 2lb) | canned tuna (140g) | Water (1.5 liter bottle).

The Most Expensive Essential Food Items In The World

Switzerland has the most expensive shopping essentials in the world. A basket full of bread, milk, eggs, and other everyday food items comes to $52.95. But the relatively high cost of food isn't too much of an issue for the locals. Switzerland has one of the highest annual wages globally; the average monthly salary works out at over $7,000.

Norway, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and several other European nations appear in the most expensive essentials list. However, like Switzerland, a higher average wage means these prices aren't as painful as they first seem.

The Most Affordable Food Prices

The average wage earner in the USA can also manage a higher cost of essential goods. The price of a basket of daily essentials equals 12% of the daily average wage. That makes the USA the most affordable place to shop for groceries.

But the USA might not be able to hold onto that title for much longer. Rising inflation has pushed up food prices dramatically. One report suggests the prices of meat, poultry, and eggs are up by 5.9% since this time last year. Other items found on supermarket shelves in the USA now cost 15% more than they did in 2020.


The Most Expensive And Least Affordable Places To Shop

A basket of food items costs $49.50 in Cambodia. That's expensive when compared with the majority of other nations. And it's even worse when you consider the average Cambodian wage.

The average salary in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's busy capital, is just $290 US dollars per month. That means the cost of a basket of food equates to 940% of the average daily wage. Unsurprisingly, this makes Cambodia the least affordable nation to buy the everyday essentials we all need.

The least affordable list is dominated by countries in the developing world. In Kenya, a basket of essentials costs 552% more than the average daily wage. The NetCredit researchers found similar eye-watering figures when looking at food prices and wages in Nicaragua (361%), Bangladesh (340%), Honduras (278%), and El Salvador (220%).


So is there any hope for the poorest people living in these nations? Maybe. The United Nation's ambitious 2030 agenda aims to reduce poverty and ensure more equal outcomes across the globe. Unfortunately, the UN is still a bit sketchy on the exact details of its plan.

El Salvador has taken more radical action.  Earlier this year, the South American nation added $66million of Bitcoin to its treasury. It also gifted $30 worth of the cryptocurrency to all citizens and passed a law making Bitcoin legal tender.

It might sound like a bonkers idea. But El Salvador's other legal tender, the US dollar, has been falling in real value for the last 100 years. A $100 bill in 1913 is worth less than $4 at today's prices. Conversely, the person who bought two pizzas with 10,000 Bitcoins back in 2010 is probably wishing he'd held on to his stack. Those coins are now worth $638million.

World-Map Vegan Shop

Vegan Shopping Essentials

Not everybody shops the same. So the OnDeck researchers decided to look at the same data again, only this time they did it from a vegan perspective.

Going vegan is a privilege available to those living in developed nations with a surplus of goods. So it's no surprise that a basket of vegan goods is the most expensive and least affordable in poorer countries like Honduras, Jamaica, and Lebanon. In these countries, the everyday vegan essentials cost between 200% and 597% of the daily average wage.

Poland is where vegan goods are the cheapest in Europe; a basket costs just $17.19. Other vegan-friendly European nations include Portugal ($25.91), Belgium ($24), and the UK ($29.16.)

The price is higher in the USA - $26.04 per basket. But again, thanks to a high average national wage, the USA is the number one place for vegan shoppers in terms of affordability.

You can check the complete data on all grocery prices, vegan and non-vegan, in the infographics below.

Grocery Shop