Food prices on the rise

Consumers will be able to spend more time combing through supermarket shelves in search of cheaper groceries after the extension of trading hours over the weekend, but will find lower priced items harder to come by with another wave of price hikes in food items expected next month. Extended retail trading hours kicked in on Saturday following the passing of a controversial parliamentary bill in July that prompted opposition and strikes across the country. Worker groups continued their protest action on Saturday at some supermarket stores in Athens and Thessaloniki, trying to stop shoppers from supporting the extended trading hours. Riot police were called in at one retailer in Athens to help restore order. Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas yesterday said the extra hours would help develop the industry, which had been complaining about foul play from illegal competitors such as street vendors. «We are setting up rules for healthy competition and a healthy trading environment,» he said. The change will help bring Greece in line with other European Union countries, where stores are open for more hours and, in some cases, on Sundays. The government says the move will help create jobs, but opponents insist that small and medium-sized enterprises won’t be able to handle to extra labor costs. The increased working hours will likely further increase retail prices at a time when soaring fuel costs have hiked prices for many food items. Industry data shows that more than 30 businesses in the food and beverage industry have upped their prices over the last two months or are about to in September. Chocolate lovers will pay between 2 and 9 percent more after three companies in the sector upped their prices, while sweets in general have gone up between 4 and 16 percent. Price increases have varied between 0.5 percent to 18 percent, though most are in the 4.5 percent range. The figures clash with official inflation data, which says consumer prices rose by only 3.9 annually.