Black Sash Media Statements

Black Sash welcomes food price probe into supermarkets - BLACK SASH, 1 July 09

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, 1 July 2009.

The Black Sash welcomes the Competition Commission’s food price probe into South Africa’s biggest supermarket chains. The alarming increase in the cost of basic foods over the past year, coupled with the uncovering of various cartel activities in the milling, dairy and poultry industries, has increased suspicion of possible collusion along the entire food value chain. Imagine the devastating cumulative effect on poor consumers if anti-competitive practices are taking place at each stage in the chain? The Black Sash believes the public has the right to know exactly what is happening in the supermarket industry and we salute the Commission for their interventions to root out any immoral profiteering from food.

The Black Sash has always maintained that there is more than an abstract principle at stake here.  Collusive business practices have a very real and severe impact on the quality of life of ordinary South Africans who struggle each day to put a meal on the table, especially during our current recession. Recent research by UNISA shows that the poorest 20% of households spend 57% of their total income on food. High food prices also erode the gains made by government in the roll out of social security to the most vulnerable members of our society.  A recent example of this is the effect of high prices on the purchasing power of social grants and the subsequent adjustment that government has had to make to address this impact.

The Black Sash will be following the Competition Commission’s investigation very closely.  We will continue to advocate that any fines imposed on those found guilty of anti-competitive practices be based on the full extent and duration of their illegal activity, and that penalties are imposed not just on the companies involved, but also on their Chief Executive Officers (who are ultimately responsible). As an organisation that fights to make human rights real, the Black Sash believes that it is only fair that monies recovered through these fines be used to compensate consumers and support food security programmes.

ENDS.

For interview requests, please contact:

Nkosikhulule Nyembezi

Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager

Cell: 082-429 4719

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OR

Elroy Paulus

Black Sash Advocacy Programme Manager

Cell: 072-382 8175

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