(Ottawa) The Minister of Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, once again insists that he is reaching out to foreign players in the grocery sector in the hope that they will open up to Canada and will further stimulate competition.
The federal minister said he spoke to an international player on Tuesday as part of his efforts to attract new banners to the Canadian food sector, although he did not mention any names.
“I can’t tell you everything, otherwise you won’t ask me any more questions next week. I was in conversation with one of these banners this morning,” Mr. Champagne told reporters.
The minister met with Canadian grocers in the fall about food inflation. He demanded that they develop plans to stabilize food prices or face consequences, including potential tax measures.
Mr. Champagne recently expressed his disappointment with the lack of transparency from grocers about their intentions. However, the Liberal elected official remained silent as to whether the federal government planned to punish them for this.
“Large grocers have, to date, not been sufficiently transparent about the causes of food inflation, and they have mostly failed to provide regular updates on initiatives to stabilize prices food in the country,” he argued in a letter addressed to Competition Commissioner Matthew Boswell on Monday.
“The record profits that continue to be made in the grocery retail sector indicate that there are more opportunities to provide relief to Canadian consumers,” he added.
The Metro chain also announced on Tuesday a profit of 228.5 million in the first quarter, with sales up 6.5%.
At a press conference, President and CEO Eric La Flèche said that retail price increases will begin to be implemented in grocery stores as early as next week, following a period of ban on supplier price increases which applies to the entire sector.
Mr. La Flèche had previously mentioned that Metro had not changed its prices due to the meeting with Minister Champagne.
Mr. Champagne’s letter to the competition commissioner suggested a follow-up assessment on the grocery sector, now that the office has new powers to subpoena companies for information.
“I also look forward to discussing with you your assessment of the potential scope and feasibility of further market research into the grocery sector,” he wrote.
The Competition Bureau released the findings of its previous study in June, saying grocers’ collaboration was variable and incomplete.
The report finds that concentration in the grocery sector has increased in recent years and that the largest grocers have increased their profits from the sale of food products.
The bureau also said Canada’s food sector needs more competition to help keep food prices low, give shoppers more choice and encourage new entrants.