The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the UK’s competition watchdog, has announced it will ramp up its examination into grocery prices.

The CMA said it “has not seen evidence pointing to specific competition concerns in the grocery sector” but will continue to make sure that weak competition is not a factor.

The watchdog plans to assess how competition is working overall in the grocery retail market and, simultaneously, it will identify which product categories could benefit from closer examination across the supply chain.

Sarah Cardell, chief executive of the CMA, said: “The rising cost of living is putting people and businesses under sustained financial pressure. The CMA is determined to do what it can to ensure competition helps contain these pressures as much as possible.

“Grocery and food shopping are essential purchases. We recognise that global factors are behind many of the grocery price increases, and we have seen no evidence at this stage of specific competition problems. But, given ongoing concerns about high prices, we are stepping up our work in the grocery sector to help ensure competition is working well and people can exercise choice with confidence.”

Last week, the UK House of Commons cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee announced it is set to investigate how “profitability and risks are shared through the food supply chain and the existing government system of monitoring and regulation”.

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The impact of external factors on the supply chain, including imported food and global commodity prices, is also set to be examined.

The parliamentary committee will investigate issues throughout the food supply chain from “farm to fork”, using evidence from farmers, manufacturers, retailers, consumers and the UK government. 

This inquiry follows the committee’s ongoing food security inquiry; issues around access to healthy and affordable food, especially for low-income households, are continuing to be investigated by the committee.

The EFRA committee will also look into how families can access facilities such as allotments to grow their own food.

The chair of the EFRA committee, Robert Goodwill, said: “During these times of high food price inflation, when many people are struggling to give their families good food at a reasonable price, it’s our job as a committee to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

“We know that consumers are paying higher prices, but the question is – are the other parts of the supply chain unduly benefitting from that, or are some of them also feeling the squeeze? We need to strike the right balance to ensure healthy, affordable – and preferably British-produced – food is available to all of us.”

Tomorrow (16 May), the UK’s ‘Farm to Fork’ summit, hosted by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, is set to see the government come under fire to alleviate a labour shortage affecting the agri-food sector.

The UK’s surging food inflation levels and a lack of available labour for the food manufacturers are likely to be at the forefront of the summit.

Last month, the country’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported the prices of food and non-alcoholic drinks increased 19.2% year on year in March. It said the rate for food and non-alcoholic drinks was the highest seen for more than 45 years.