OPINION

Cartels milk Greek consumers

Kathimerini seems to have made its point regarding the retail price of fresh milk in Greece, which costs up to 40 percent more than in other European countries. According to a statement released yesterday by the country’s Competition Commission, the state-controlled watchdog has conducted an official on-the-spot inspection of dairy food companies. The document said that the evidence collected by the authorities is still being processed by the responsible officials. We should first of all welcome the intervention by the commission, even if it took repeated articles in Kathimerini. The damage done to free market competition from price-harmonization practices adopted by the various cartels is taking a daily toll on the Greek consumers’ budgets. Greek households have to pay an average extra 290 euros on milk compared to their German peers. This is not a negligible sum, particularly given the rising cost of living. At the same time, the price discrepancy in milk products translates into some 300 million euros in profits for the dairy industry. One should welcome the initiative taken by the commission. Even so, it is important that the current phase, of data processing and evaluation of market conditions, should not run as long as the notorious study of the Greek market which was ordered by the same commission two years ago and which was due for release in June, but with no sign of it yet. The liberalization of markets is a blessing for consumers. The existence of healthy competition improves the quality of available goods and drives prices down. Some Greek sectors insist on defying this principle. The problem does not lie with the principle but with those who are meant to respect it. The state must find a remedy soon.