Every time we go grocery shopping, Australians face choosing between two major operators and a smattering of small independent stores which cannot compete with the goliaths on price alone.

While the majors can argue about market share figures, the reality is we shop in a virtual duopoly and it is doing us no favours at the checkout.

Australians are facing increased pressure on their hip pockets with interest rates, fuel and the rising cost of groceries. That’s why CHOICE conducts supermarket surveys to give consumers independent information about pricing and competition.

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Our recent survey, released this month, showed a 12% increase in the price of a basket of 33 items since 2003 (excluding fresh fruit and vege and meat).

But amongst our basket of goods were items that had gone up dramatically, including a 45% increase in the price of canola oil, a 23% rise in white sugar, and a 27% increase in 1.25 litre bottles of Coca-Cola. Perhaps because of the drought and the damage to stone fruit crops, a 825g tin of Goulburn Valley Peach Slices went up a whopping 46%.

Like the peaches, there may be valid reasons for price hikes seen with other products. Unfortunately, short of very broad hints about the price of transport and the drought, consumers don’t know what those reasons are.

Labor’s proposal — for the ACCC to investigate prices charged by the supermarkets giants — would go some way to explaining any future dramatic price increases to consumers.

CHOICE has no evidence of supermarket chains colluding on price, but this proposal would ensure that consumers are protected from that ever happening. Transparency as provided by an ACCC inquiry would benefit us all.

Clearly, as a result of CHOICE’s survey, the major parties have become aware that this is touchstone issue with consumers.

CHOICE challenges the Federal Government to announce how it will combat the perception in the community that the weekly grocery shop is an ever increasing impost on the family budget.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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