Talks target relief from price hikes

The Development Ministry is expected to meet with representatives from food companies today in the government’s latest effort to limit price hikes on consumer goods, which have been among the highest in the European Union. The meeting follows last week’s gathering between Development Minister Christos Folias and 36 businesses that produce or sell the majority of consumer goods purchased by households. He called on them to cut prices or be placed on the «blacklist» the ministry intends to publish with the names of businesses that unjustifiably increase prices. In today’s talks, the ministry will ask food companies to hold off increasing prices, said a ministry source. The conservative government has boosted steps aimed at fighting inflation, which is seen moving above an annual 4.6 percent rate in May, a level not seen for more than six years. The push for price containment has partly paid off. Unilever Hellas promised yesterday to cut prices by 10 percent on household detergents. Soaring international oil prices have been blamed by the government for inflation. However, opposition parties point out that a lack of competition in the highly segregated food market provides the right conditions for upward cost pressure. In April, prices of basic household items in Greece, such as bread, rocketed higher by nearly 15 percent, according to official data. The average price increase for bread in the European Union for the same period was 9.2 percent. Consumer rights groups have been calling on shoppers to boycott companies caught excessively upping their prices. Last month, a consumer group called on shoppers to stop putting pasta products in their baskets for a week. The country’s largest union GSEE is organizing a march in Athens and other large cities in the middle of June, along with public sector union group ADEDY, in protest at rising prices. In Exarchia, central Athens, a group of about 30 people who called themselves «Outraged Consumers» found their own way to protest on Saturday morning. The group stormed into a supermarket and emptied its shelves before running out of the store and handing out the goods for free at a nearby outdoor food market. There were no arrests made.