All supermarkets in France would sell 20 essential items at a “knockdown price” as part of plans to make basic goods more affordable in light of rising prices, a minister has suggested.
Olivia Grégoire, minister in charge of consumer affairs, told AFP: “One of the possibilities would be to have a basket of around 20 basic, essential products, which the supermarket will commit to selling at almost cost price.’
“The idea is that we would have a foundation of essential products at the lowest price possible. This will include everything from baby and adult hygiene products to dairy, fresh food and pasta.”
The concept has already been established in other European countries, she said, including Greece.
Ms Grégoire added that while many measures have been put in place to help people with the rising cost of fuel and energy, few have targeted food prices.
She said: “In France, the aid paid by the state has taken into account spending on energy, mainly but it’s true that nothing has been put in place to help people in France fill their shopping trolleys.
“This is despite the first two quarters of 2023 looking set to be difficult with food prices continuing to rise sharply.”
She added that the promised ‘chèque alimentaire’ had never materialised - although lower-income households did receive a payment that was intended to help buy food.
Supermarket response: Leclerc says ‘goalposts have changed’
Michel-Edouard Leclerc, the head of supermarket giant E. Leclerc, said that he had previously been in favour of such a plan but that it was no longer viable.
He told Le Point: “I was in favour of the idea, which I thought was good, when Olivia Grégoire’s team originally contacted me about it in autumn but the goalposts have changed now.
“Prices from our suppliers are going to rise by 15% on average in March. And with this law, we would lose the advantage of major money-off promotions and our 10% margin. No supermarket can accept the prospect of adding a basket of low-cost items to this [situation].”
The debate comes as food prices in France continue to rise. They soared by 12% over the course of 2022, with the trend set to continue into this year.
Cooking oils, fresh frozen fruit, margarine and animal fats, flour, pasta, and couscous were among the products that rose the most in price last year.