Commerce Minister David Clark has given his strongest indication yet the Government could be about to break up New Zealand’s supermarket duopoly. Next steps will be announced in late May.
In an interview on NewstalkZB about the 7.6% rise in food prices in the year to March, he quoted the Commerce Commission’s recent study that the main supermarkets are taking $1 million in excess profits out of New Zealanders’ pockets every day.
When asked if he would rule out breaking up the duopoly, he said: “Look, I haven’t ruled out going further than the Commerce Commission’s recommendations … they are very clear competition isn’t working in the New Zealand market and they’ve put a range of solutions on the table that they recommend.
“I have said very clearly I’m considering whether I need to go further than that.”
He said one of the recommendations was to provide access to the wholesale operations of the existing major grocery retailers so anyone who wants to step up – a small chain that wants to grow their business, or someone that wants to come in from overseas – has got ready access to groceries.
“They can then supply the range that people want at affordable and competitive prices, and that would increase competition in the market, so that’s one of the big things we can do.”
He said he has talked to supermarket operators, including some overseas “to get a sense of why they’re not here”, and some of the smaller ones about why they haven’t expanded, “so that’s giving me a pretty good flavour of things.
“It certainly it backs up the analysis the Commerce Commission’s put together.
“… we need to take very seriously the recommendations of the Commerce Commission. They found very clearly that consumers are not getting the best deal at the checkout that they should be getting.
“I want to be clear with New Zealanders about the direction of travel and I hope to be able to do that at the end of May”