ESEE wants action on flour prices

The National Confederation of Greek Commerce (ESEE) urged the government yesterday to become active in controling price increases on everyday goods, saying large companies are passing on the rising cost of wheat-based products to consumers. The federation’s president, Vassilis Korkidis, called on the Competition Commission to investigate high prices for items such as flour, pasta and bread, according to a statement. «Multinational companies operating in Greece must realize that speculation on prices must end,» Korkidis said. «Instead of cheap excuses for price increases, Greek consumers need cheap prices.» A raid by competition authorities on the offices of two flour producer federations uncovered earlier this week evidence of harmonized price increases being conducted among the country’s largest producers and bakeries, according to sources. The inspections were made in a bid to spot harmonized practices between wheat, flour and bread producers suspected of being involved in a price cartel, and are expected to continue in the near future. Based on initial indications, recent comments from the two associations warning of price hikes appear to have been taken literally and adopted by some members of the industry. Korkidis added that it is «provocative» for grain prices in countries such as Russia and Ukraine to remain steady, while in Greece price increases are ready to appear on bakery, supermarket and patisserie shelves. «ESEE believes that the timely intervention of the Competition Commission and General Secretariat for Commerce in the flour industry… will bring prices back to normal levels,» he added. The worst drought in half a century prompted Russia in early August to ban grain exports, sending wheat prices to a 23-month high.