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Canada’s “top five” grocers have pledged to address their prices, a government minister has announced.

François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, said the retailers are “following through on their engagement to support efforts aimed at stabilising food prices” after talks last month between government, grocers and manufacturers.

In a statement issued yesterday (5 October), Champagne said: “Canadians can expect to see actions such as aggressive discounts across a basket of key food products that represent the most important purchases for most households, price freezes and price-matching campaigns.”

Last month, Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau threatened to impose taxes unless grocery retailers come up with measures to “stabilise” food prices.

Canada’s government also said it intended to take steps to improve competition across the economy, “with a focus on the grocery sector”, it said.

Champagne has announced a new office of consumer affairs with a “grocery task force”, a new grocery code of conduct and more accessible and available data on food prices. He added the Competition Bureau will soon have more powers to tackle these issues through changes to the Competition Act.

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He said: “The cost of groceries has risen drastically over the past years, and Canadians are struggling to put food on their tables. Canadians are rightfully frustrated by this situation and we are implementing solutions to bring relief to them. 

“Our government is hard at work to make life more affordable and increase competition that would expand choices for Canadians. I will continue to keep a close eye on Canada’s largest grocery chains, the food processors and other industry actors to make sure that the price of food in Canada will be stabilised. It’s just the beginning.”

Grocery inflation in Canada was 6.9% in August, down from the 8.5% seen in July. The all-items rate was 4%.

Sylvain Charlebois, a professor in food distribution and policy at the Faculties of Management and Agriculture at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said Champagne has “missed several opportunities” for consumers seeking immediate assistance.

“While the plan does offer certain benefits to consumers, such as discounts and price-matching policies, it predominantly reinforces the status quo in the industry, with many of the mentioned measures already in practice,” he said.

“For those currently grappling with economic challenges at the grocery store, immediate relief from the federal government may not be forthcoming. However, there is hope that these strategic measures will ultimately pave the way for a more equitable and affordable food landscape for all Canadian citizens.”