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Belgium faces shortage of 10 and 20 cent pieces

15:58 07/10/2023

Notices asking: “If you pay cash, please pay the right amount” are a common sight in Belgian shops today. The reason is clear – a serious lack of 10 and 20 cent pieces.

Since last December, Febelfin - the Belgian federation for the financial sector - retail federation Comeos and independent business union Unizo have noted a lack of small change, encouraging customers to pay electronically, for example via Payconiq, or with the exact money.

The Covid-19 crisis, war in Ukraine and a resulting lack in primary materials were the reasons given for the halt in circulation – and since then the problem has only got worse.

“Up until now, we could rely on our own and the customers’ reserves. But today, we have no more coins at all,” Quentin Le Bussy, manager of Liège DIY store Mr Bricolage told RTBF.

“Currently, to meet this problem, we are overusing five cent pieces. We are also going to launch an appeal offering small promotions to people who pay with 10 or 20 cent pieces.”

The shortage of 10 and 20 cent pieces also affects the way shopkeepers set their prices.

“This lack of coins is making us round up our prices,” noted a waiter at a popular student bar in Louvain-la-Neuve. “When I started working, it was €3.20 for a 50cl beer.

"First, we had to raise this to €3.40, following a price increase, and then we made the price €3.50 because €3.40 was not possible from the point of view of giving out change."

Naturally, the bank has traditionally been the first port of call to procure more of the magic 10 and 20 cent pieces. But while banks have always offered this service, in practice, this has become more complicated, Le Bussy said.

"Generally we go to our bank every two to three weeks," he said. "There has always been a certain rationing, but the last two times we went, we did not get any coins at all. Our bank simply does not receive any more from the National Bank."

This situation, coupled with the relentless disappearance of local branch banks, means that small businesses all over the country have to trek to the National Bank of Belgium, near Brussels-Central station. And this means being constrained by set hours and by a fixed quota of 10 and 20 cent pieces that cannot be exceeded.

The banking sector confirms this persistent shortage of 10 and 20 cent pieces is continuing. Febelfin said it had always been due to two reasons: the lack of circulation of these coins and the Ukraine war, which caused a severe shortage of primary materials (metal) to make the coins.

But Belgium’s finance ministry argues that there has never been – apart from one and two-cent pieces – as many coins in circulation.

“We have some 4,239,851,549 in total,” spokeswoman Florence Angelici said. “Nevertheless, this large number of coins is not circulating enough and is staying mainly in people’s homes, in their moneyboxes.”

This is an argument for not blindly just making more coins – especially as this has a cost too. “The idea is not to produce coins that will not circulate,” she said, as market demand does not correspond to general use of the coins in Belgium.

Nevertheless, faced with the chronic lack of coins, the Treasury decided in May to order an additional 17 million 20 cent pieces and some seven million extra 10 cent pieces from the Dutch Royal Mint, where Belgium now gets its stocks.

“The current raw parts supply market has further tightened compared to 2022,” Angelici said. “This is due to the disappearance of some suppliers, partly caused by European sanctions against Russian companies which, combined with increased production demand since the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, has led to additional long waiting times. This situation is causing similar delays for other euro area countries.”

The Ukraine war has caused delays of up to six months in the production process, Angelici explained. This means that the 20 cent pieces will not be delivered until the end of February 2024 and the 10 cent pieces will not be ready until late March 2024.

To make ends meet until then, the treasury has negotiated exchange and lending agreements with other countries in the eurozone, most recently with Portugal.

Meanwhile, an appeal has been launched for all Belgians to put their dormant change in circulation and to good use when shopping, to help replenish stocks.

Written by Liz Newmark



When the Euro came to life in 2002 I always felt the European Central Bank did a wonderful job with the notes (with maybe the exception of the issuance of the €500 note, which was taken out of circulation several years ago). BUT the COINS? We really need EIGHT COINS? A nightmare. We really only need the 5 cent, 20 cent, 50 cent and 2 Euro coins. 4 coins.

First of all - issuing 1 cent and 2 cent coins? Seriously? (Finland stopped the 1 cent and 2 cent coins almost immediately - Bravo!). Plus the 10 cent and 20 cent coins look alike (especially after a few months of aging); likewise the €1 and €2 coin.

The excellent set-up for the notes: €5, €10, €20, €50, €100 and €200 today-- well no one uses the €100 and €200 notes and most people live with the €5, €10 and €20! It works!

BUT the nightmare of 8 coins?! We can easily make all the change we need with my 4-coin system: Receiving €0.75 in change? One each of the 50 cent, 20 cent and 5 cent. What about receiving €3.85 in change? With the 8 coin system: 6 coins: One each of €2, €1, €0.50, €0.20, €0.10 and 0.€05. AND HOW MANY TIMES WILL YOU HAVE THOSE EXACT COINS IN YOUR POCKET? (never). With the 4-coin system I propose: 8 coins: €2, 3x €0.50, 1x €0.20 and 3x €0.05. And with only 4 coins in circulation, you ARE LIKELY to have these in your purse or pocket!

Finally - no one ever standardized how to write Euro money: In the USA it is $1,234.56 -- or $1.23 or $.75 -- always the $ sign first, then the number, then a decimal point and then the amount less than a dollar. IN EUROPE? Anything goes! €2 €2,0 €2,00 but more commonly: 2€ 2,0€ or ,76€ And other variations!! A real mess!

So how about some leadership here? 4 coins and €1.234,56 please!

OK that's my 2 cents worth for today!

Steve on Tuesday 10 October 2023 -

Oct 10, 2023 10:01

It would benefit Belgium and the banks to have some sort of coin return system in place. It would be nice to have a machine, say in a grocery store like Carrefour, where we can pour in our coins and get back larger pieces of currency.

A lot of people do not like carrying around a lot of change as it can be heavy, weight-wise. So, they tend to separate their change/coins and leave them at home.

With lots of smaller banks closing and moving location, and them no longer receiving cash, what are we to do with our coins? Give us some dispensers where we can either transfer the coins to our bank account or receive larger bills for them.

These coin receptacles could also be in banks, where ATM machines reside.

Nov 23, 2023 09:22