Carrefour, the French-owned supermarket chain, is blaming producers, especially industries, for raising their prices excessively this year, and warns that, if that tactic continued, it would increase imports. This statement, made by the retail chain which was the first to declare a voluntary freeze in prices, is a response both to industrialists, who had accused retailers of siding with the government in a politically motivated charade, and to small shop owners, who have charged that the big retailers have already raised their prices and can afford to make what is essentially an empty gesture. After meeting with Deputy Development Minister Kimon Koulouris yesterday, Carrefour Hellas President Didier Fleury declared, «We are all putting pressure on industry.» He also charged that supermarket suppliers had increased prices at «twice or three times the rate of inflation.» He specifically said that dairy product prices increased 18 percent during the past 18 months, while cosmetics increased as much, but within the past year. Greece’s annual inflation rate was 3.3 percent at the end of August. Fleury said that price rises were made by both domestic industries and multinationals. As a result, he said, products such as beverages milk and detergents are sold in Greece at prices 30 to 40 percent higher than in other EU countries. «This is a big problem and, if it persists, we will turn to imports,» he said. Koulouris, who since his appointment in early July has been the government’s point man in the fight against inflation, also met with representatives of the AB Vassilopoulos and Veropoulos supermarket chains yesterday. After the meeting, Koulouris said that the price freeze agreed to by the retailers is having a positive effect on inflation. «It concerns about 20,000 products and about 400 suppliers,» he said. He added that of 120 goods closely monitored by authorities 35 had shown excessive price fluctuations. Koulouris further announced that on Monday he will meet with representatives of multinational companies Colgate, Procter & Gamble, Unilever, Henkel and L’Oreal. He will ask them not to raise their wholesale prices. Next on Koulouris’s agenda is a meeting with representatives of the dairy, olive oil and wine sectors. Concerning olive oil, however, he said that increased prices this year were the result of poor weather that hurt production in large parts of the Mediterranean. «In Italy, for example, the price has reached as high as 3.05 euros per kilo,» he said. Despite the retailers’ complaints about suppliers, a study by research company Kantor Capital claims that, actually, the supermarket chains are gaining leverage from suppliers in an expanding number of sectors, and it is retailers who have the biggest say in how prices fluctuate. «We will see a further strengthening of the supermarket sector, which has strong bargaining power against suppliers from several sectors (foods and beverages, clothing and footwear, electrical and electronic goods and appliances),» notes the report, which predicts that big supermarkets may also become active sellers of cars «in the near future.» Last year, nonetheless, was not good for supermarkets because «excessive indebtedness by a number of households hurt demand, while increased competition, investments by the bigger companies and the irrational expansion of chain networks hurt financial results,» the report says.