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FTC: Grocers gouging consumers with food prices

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Mark Moran

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(Big Sky Connection) Food prices remain high, in Montana and across the country.

A new report by the Federal Trade Commission says the country's largest grocery companies are gouging consumers, by keeping prices artificially high.

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Many grocers, retailers and wholesalers have consolidated to cut costs. Grocers continue to blame supply chain problems, even though regulators have said most of those issues have been resolved.

President of the advocacy group Farm Action, Angela Huffman, said retailers were doing more than making up for lost revenue during the pandemic-era supply chain disruptions - and the FTC report says they continue to do so.

"In 2021, the retailer revenues, they rose to more than 6 percent higher than their total costs, and that those profits are still going up," said Huffman. "So, in the first nine months of 2023, the profits increased to 7 percent."

At nearly 6.5 percent, Montana had the nation's ninth-highest grocery price increase in 2023.

The FTC data show Amazon, Kroger and WalMart each gained market share during and after the pandemic - while profits continued to rise.

Other large retailers and wholesalers have consolidated, which they say gives them more buying power and the ability to pass those savings on to customers.

Huffman said that isn't what's happening, and calls on regulators to fine the grocers, or more.

"This would be kind of the farthest extent of what they could do, but go so far as breaking them up," said Huffman. "In years past, they broke up the telephone companies and the railroads and, you know, that would be the ideal outcome for us, is to take away their excessive power."

Huffman also points to a 150 percent increase in egg prices in 2023, which producers blamed on the avian flu. The FTC says the disease did not justify the drastic price hike.