Competition Bureau to probe grocery sector as food prices soar 

By Patricia D'Cunha

With the cost of food the highest it’s been in more than four decades, Canada’s competition watchdog is launching a study to take a closer look at the grocery industry in this country.

“The study will examine various issues with the goal of recommending measures that governments can take to help improve competition in the sector,” the Competition Bureau said in a release on Monday.

The watchdog said it will make recommendations for the federal government in its final report, which it plans to publish in June 2023.

Last week, Statistics Canada released its latest inflation report that showed while overall inflation cooler slightly in September, the cost of groceries continues to climb.

Grocery prices rose at the fastest rate since August 1981, with prices up 11.4 per cent compared with a year ago. Prices for bakery products were up almost 15 per cent, while the cost for fresh fruits and vegetables rose by nearly 12 per cent.

The Competition Bureau said many factors may have impacted food prices including higher input costs, disruptions to the supply chain, the ongoing invasion by Russia in Ukraine, and extreme weather. However, in this study, it will be specifically looking at whether competition in the grocery sector is also playing a role.

The study will examine three main issues related to competition, according to the watchdog.

  • To what extent is the rise in grocery prices a result of changing competitive dynamics
  • What can we learn from other countries that have taken steps to increase competition in the sector
  • How can governments lower barriers to entry and expansion to drive up competition for consumers


Earlier this month, the House of Commons Agriculture Committee voted to investigate food prices.

The House of Commons also voted unanimously in favour of an NDP motion calling on the government to tackle “corporate greed” in the grocery sector.

In an effort to combat soaring prices, Loblaw Companies Ltd. said last week it would be freezing prices all of its No Name products until Jan. 31, 2023.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, said it would be interesting to see if other grocers follow Loblaw’s move.

With files from The Canadian Press

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