A leading French consumer association has raised questions over whether the government-led drive to bring down food prices has worked.
France introduced several measures to counter soaring food prices in March.
It included the ‘trimestre anti-inflation’, which asked leading supermarkets to reduce prices on key everyday items for three months.
But consumer organisation UFC-Que Choisir said the prices of goods that were part of the anti-inflation drive had “slightly risen” in three of the five French supermarkets that it studied between March 23 and May 10.
The report said that “on average, prices rose slightly at Intermarché (average rise 1.5%), Casino (rise of 1.4%) and Système U (rise of 1%), and remained stable at Carrefour”. It said that the “only shop that recorded a drop is Auchan (a drop of 0.3%), but this one previously saw the highest increase. We are far from a drop in price of 13% [to match inflation]” said UFC-Que Choisir.
Food price row
France’s economy minister Bruno Le Maire hit back, saying UFC-Que Choisir’s methodology was “dishonest”.
He told BFMTV: “It is dishonest because the anti-inflation quarter started on March 15. I don't like it when consumers are misled. UFC-Que Choisir starts its comparison from March 23, after the start of the operation. Do you think this is honest?”
“You have to compare prices before March 15, and prices after March 15. If you take these dates, the prices of products in this anti-inflation quarter have indeed fallen by 13% on average, some a little more, some a little less,” he said.
‘Anti-inflation baskets have done nothing’
But UFC-Que Choisir stood by its figures. Grégory Caret, director of the group’s consumer observatory, said: “Our study is objective. There was no collapse of prices between March 1 and 23.”
He said the group had chosen the date of March 23 to begin its study in reaction to the comments of Junior Minister for Commerce, Olivia Grégoire. She said on May 10 that food prices in the anti-inflation drive had dropped by 13% over the last seven weeks.
“In reaction to the trade minister’s statement that prices had fallen over seven weeks, we very foolishly went back seven weeks,” he said, sarcastically.
He added “consumers are not benefitting from this [anti-inflation] basket because it does not correspond to their needs”.
The association said Ms Grégoire’s “declaration is false”.
It said: “If this information were to be verified, it would be good news - even if it is limited to everyday consumer products (food, hygiene) chosen by the retailers. But it’s not true.”
The association wrote: "Every month, we calculate inflation on a representative basket of supermarket purchases. In May 2023, prices rose by 8.5% (compared to December prices). The introduction of anti-inflation baskets has done nothing to curb the inflation that began in early 2022.”