Watchdog sniffs out chicken cartel

The Development Ministry’s competition commission has imposed 40 million euros in fines on a total of 13 chicken farms across the country after deeming that they set up a cartel to control prices and carve out their share in a lucrative market for more than 14 years.

According to the commission, the cartel controlled 75 percent of the Greek chicken market during its heyday between 1996 and 2010. It was formed through frequent and regular meetings of sector representatives. Many of these meetings were hosted by the national association of chicken farms, known by its acronym SPEE, while others were held at hotels and cafes.

Commission members said they found thick files of minutes from the cartel members’ meetings. Those documents, along with other evidence confiscated from the offices of various enterprises, suggest that the cartel had very detailed agreements – with set prices for different cuts of chicken: breast, legs and fillet.

The commission’s investigation found that cartel members also forged agreements regarding the channels for the distribution of the chicken, essentially controlling merchants, butchers, grill houses and supermarkets.

A monitoring system was even set up to ensure that businesses involved in the cartel were compliant. For instance, if a grill house owner dared to seek a larger discount from a supplier due to increased demand, the supplier would not only refuse but inform the other businesses.

According to sources, the commission kept the fine relatively small due to the impact of the economic crisis on the sector.