More supermarket chains are needed to increase competition against Australia’s two big food retailers, Coles and Woolworths, to reduce food prices, federal Competition Minister Craig Emerson says.
Speaking after the publication of new figures showing that Australia has the fastest rising food prices of any major developed nation, Dr Emerson also said the Rudd government did not regret its decision to scrap the Grocery Choice price comparison website.
“We want to see real competition, more supermarkets and that is why the Rudd government is working with the states and territories to tear down the barriers to entry into the sector,” he told reporters in Sydney on Monday.
Giving consumers basic price comparison information, as had been proposed for the Grocery Choice website, would not in itself increase competition and lower prices, Dr Emerson said.
“Giving consumers more information does not necessarily equal more competition,” he said.
“We’re taking on hard measures by taking down the barriers to competition with Coles and Woolworths.
“We are determined to apply the competition blowtorch.”
Dr Emerson said a range of factors including drought had caused the food price rises, which meant the cost of feeding an average family has risen 40 per cent in the last decade.
“There’s a range of combining factors that go into price rises over a number of years but competition is the best force for lowering prices,” he said.
“If you ask Australian consumers they will say prices have been rising and that they are too high.
“They want value for money and we think that’s right and we intend to do that by introducing more competition.”
© 2009 AAP