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Comment: Price-fixing of bread would be hard to prove | Times Colonist

Demonstrating beyond a reasonable doubt that grocers are colluding to keep retail prices artificially high is almost impossible. Several attempts have been made in the past, with mixed results. Grocery stores carry on average more than 15,000 different products, and prices can be affected by an array of factors: commodity prices; energy and labour costs; new food safety and packaging regulations.

These and others factors can influence prices in many categories more or less simultaneously. Intentional collusion to inflate profit margins would be hard to prove.

Historically, bread prices have been stable, with the exception of 2008 and 2009, when prices jumped almost 50 per cent in a single year for all bakery products. On the whole, unlike fruits, vegetables and even meat products, bread has been immune to fluctuating prices for some time. In fact, Canadians have the most affordable food basket in the world.

After the United States, and perhaps Singapore, Canadians spend less on food relative to their income than most countries in the world. Nonetheless, since we are north of the United States, where food quality is generally questionable but amazingly cheap, we often get unfairly benchmarked.

Prices are higher here, but much lower than in many places around the world. In the past month alone, food retail prices have dropped in Canada, including for bakery products. So to suggest that food prices are inflated is somewhat farfetched; or at least, if, as some believe, Canadian consumers are paying too much for bread due to price-fixing schemes, the evidence for this claim is not readily apparent.

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Comment: Price-fixing of bread would be hard to prove.