Inflation: distributors, giants of the food industry, producers… are there profiteers?

Inflation: distributors, giants of the food industry, producers... are there profiteers?

the essential
While inflation is still high in France, accusations are multiplying against possible “crisis profiteers”. A usual suspicion in times of scarcity and inflation, but what is it really? La Dépêche du Midi answers you.

On June 30, Michel-Édouard Leclerc, Chairman of the Strategic Committee of E.Leclerc centres, asked on BFMTV for the opening of a parliamentary commission of inquiry “on the origins of inflation, on what happens on the price front, from transport and commodity markets, to the consumer”. The boss of the French brand estimated that “half of the increases requested” were “not transparent, but suspicious”. What is it really? Are some players speculating on shortages to drive up prices?


In a report published on July 19, the Senate’s Economic Affairs Committee, which looked into the subject, said that it had not observed any “massive phenomenon of suspicious increases in supplier prices”. On the contrary, the parliamentarians note that the Directorate General for Competition, Consumption and the Repression of Fraud (DGCCRF) has identified price increases on the shelves by “certain distributors”, while they “n had not signed an increase in the purchase price of the product with the supplier”. Practices “facilitated by the fact that consumers expect, anyway, to see strong inflation on the shelves”.

Distributors also singled out by the main French agricultural union. Christiane Lambert, president of the National Federation of Farmers’ Unions (FNSEA), denounced this Monday, September 5, at the microphone of our colleagues from FranceInfo, “the cheating” of certain brands of large distribution to make “financial optimization”. The latter asserted that “[Les distributeurs] order more than they need and charge penalties to manufacturers who fail to deliver everything”, arguing – figures from the DGCCRF in support – that these penalties had cost 200 million euros last year.

Patrick Benezit, deputy secretary general of the FNSEA and breeder in Cantal, it is not on the side of the producers that we must look for the profiteers: “If it is true that our prices have risen since the start of the crisis, this increase is linked to compliance with the principle of non-negotiability of raw materials established by the Ega law. This increase has enabled us to offset part of the explosion in our production costs – operating expenses have increased by nearly 30% on the breeder side – but we still can’t fully cover them. Take the example of cows, our costs have gone from 5 to 6 € when the prices have only changed from 4 to 5 €.”

For Michel Pierre Chelini, professor of economic history, the figure of the profiteer of the inflationary crisis is marginal: “In the opinion of a majority of economists, there are few profiteers as such. Current inflation imposes itself on everyone: on households, on companies, on the State… We do not see a particular place of strategy which is organized to create a cartel of profiteers. According to the expert, windfall effects can nevertheless be created, but these are of the order of negligible in economic sectors which often wish to catch up with prices which have increased little in recent years.

The myth of the profiteer often appears in times of crisis: “It must be said that there is a psychological degree in inflation and this question becomes an issue, indicates the historian. If the government is going to tend, to reassure the population , to present plans or set up actions, other currents will tend to emphasize the fact that there are hoarders or profiteers. But we are here in the order of rumor and sometimes a A plausible rumor can have more impact than a real truth. The crisis upsets societal benchmarks and public opinion is reassured by pointing to the culprits rather than the causes.”

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