The federal government is already cushioning the sharp rise in prices with relief packages for social benefit recipients and employees.

According to Federal Food Minister Cem Özdemir (Greens), that is not enough: he now also wants to abolish VAT on fruit, vegetables and legumes.

"If we make fruit and vegetables cheaper, we not only relieve the burden on consumers comparatively inexpensively, but also promote healthy nutrition through the steering effect gained," Özdemir told the German Press Agency.

"That would be a double dividend proposal, which is how I prefer it."

Dietrich Creutzburg

Business correspondent in Berlin.

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In doing so, he supported the demands of social and consumer associations and physicians.

The "German Press Agency" had confronted Özdemir with it on Thursday.

The president of the social association VdK, Verena Bentele, had previously pointed to a new EU directive that will allow a zero percent rate on some foods as part of the European tax rules.

However, the retail association HDE disagreed, pointing out that the directive would only allow this from 2025 onwards.

At the same time, he also rejected the proposal on the merits: targeted social transfers are the better way to cushion the rise in prices for households with low incomes.

"Healthy nutrition shouldn't be a question of money"

Bentele had already requested the tax exemption in January after an annual average increase of 3.1 percent had been determined for 2021: Many people would have to “now have to spend their entire income on food, heating and rent” – a healthy diet “inevitably stays up the way".

Consumer advice centers have also been calling for tax exemption on vegetables, fruit and legumes for some time.

And the German Diabetes Society warned in March: "Healthy nutrition must not be a question of money." The coalition must "abolish VAT for vegetables and fruit once and for all".

The topic is receiving new attention due to the expectation that prices will continue to rise.

The main reason behind the inflation rate of 7.3 percent in March was the almost 40 percent rise in energy prices.

But some foods also became much more expensive: vegetable oil by 30 percent, fresh vegetables by 15 percent and coffee by 9 percent.

On average, food prices rose by 6.2 percent.

In addition to the debate about good nutrition, the strong rise in prices raises the question of the extent to which basic security benefits still cover the guaranteed minimum requirement: the annual adjustment as of January 1st brought only an increase of 0.7 percent - calculated on the basis of price and Wage development from July 2020 to June 2021. The so-called standard price index rose by only 0.13 percent during this period and accounts for 70 percent of the result.

Inflation, which has risen sharply since July 2021, will not be automatically taken into account until January 2023.

However, since 2020 the government has granted some special surcharges to recipients of basic security: First there was a “corona bonus” of 300 euros per child, which Hartz IV households also received.

This was followed by a one-time surcharge of EUR 150 for adults and EUR 150 per child.

A further one-time surcharge of 100 euros is now planned for July 1st, as well as a new monthly surcharge of 20 euros per child.

In any case, rising rent and heating costs are paid for by the social authorities for recipients of basic security.

Mathematically, the surcharges should cover the remaining additional costs due to high electricity and food prices.

The situation was previously more difficult for households just above the need limits that do not receive any transfers.

However, the government's most recent relief package provides - among other things - for a flat-rate energy cost allowance of 300 euros per employed person.

This now cushions a large part of the additional burden for them, at least for the time being.