9th March 2022 By Jonathan Mitchell | firstname.lastname@example.org | @foodtickernz
Opposition politicians have given the Commerce Commission’s report into the grocery sector a mixed reception although the National Party called it a “step in the right direction”.
But politicians of all stripes said it would do little to address rising prices, with the government bearing the blame.
National Party commerce and consumer affairs spokesperson Andrew Bayly described a “cost of living” crisis was occurring in New Zealand with people paying more for food and groceries, compared with others living in Australia and Britain.
“This is partly a result of the lack of competition in the grocery sector, with the lion’s share of the market being held by the two retail chains,” he said.
“In the findings of its Retail Market Grocery Study, the Commerce Commission has proposed a well-balanced set of recommendations, with the right to review in three years’ time to ensure the changes have been appropriate.”
But Bayly said Kiwis were “going backwards under Labour because wages aren’t keeping up with rampant inflation”.
“The cost of living crisis is sending the cost of basics like food, petrol and housing through the roof. Inflation is at a 30 year high and the average Kiwi family is worse off than they were 12 months ago.”
ACT New Zealand leader David Seymour called the Commerce Commission “out-of-touch” and said its report raised more questions than answers.
“The out-of-touch Commerce Commission has chosen [Tuesday] – the peak of the Omicron wave when supermarkets are desperately trying to battle supply chain issues and flying in workers from Australia to cover sick leave to release this report,” he said.
“I’m sure New Zealanders would rather in these unprecedented times, supermarket bosses were working to get food on the shelves, rather than responding to an ideological report commissioned by the government.”
Seymour said “entering the [grocery] market is nearly impossible considering the regulatory barriers faced in New Zealand – if it’s too hard to build a house, imagine a supermarket”.
“The same can be said for ‘monitoring strategic conduct.’ What does that mean? In practice, it can only mean that people trying to do business have to spend yet more time asking permission from bureaucrats and less time serving customers.”
Green Party commerce and consumer affairs spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March said the report fell short in some areas.
“We need a national food strategy that supports local growers, locals and Papakāinga to provide kai to their own communities,” he said.
“The government must also support regenerative and organic agriculture, and community-based food initiatives such as food co-operatives, community gardens, public fruit orchards, heritage seed banks and farmers’ markets.
“A publicly-owned competitor, that seeks to put the wellbeing of the communities and the environment before profits, should also be considered further.”
Menéndez March said a third competitor, which was publicly owned, should also be considered to put wellbeing above profits.
The Commerce Commission’s 609-page Market study into the retail grocery sector is before the government for a final decision on its recommendations.