The confrontation between manufacturers and distributors delays the slowdown in food inflation after the summer

    Students line up at the free grocery store at Rennes-II University on March 13, 2023.

    QWho has the recipe for reducing food inflation on supermarket shelves? A year ago, raw materials were on the rise. Speculation pushed grain, metal, cardboard, transportation and energy prices to a climax following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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    In recent months, the trend has reversed. Following the example of wheat, the ton of which is traded today, on Euronext, at around 250 euros against 350 euros in the same period of 2022. The fall is even more brutal for rapeseed: its price has fallen, in one year, from 800 euros to 470 euros. The reflux is also notable on the price of gas, certain metals, such as transport.

    Arguments that weigh on the government, eager to stem the wave of inflation that continues to rise on supermarket shelves. It reached 15% in March for agri-food products. The Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, and the Minister Delegate in charge of SMEs, Olivia Grégoire, therefore decided to send a letter to manufacturers and distributors at the beginning of April to encourage them to discuss their prices again and to take take account of this downturn in the commodity markets.

    “Industrial manoeuvre”

    But manufacturers do not seem to be in a hurry, especially since the ink is barely dry on the annual contracts they just signed on 1er March. “Politically, the government needs to show that there is no windfall effect”reacts Jean-Philippe André, president of the National Association of Food Industries, before adding: “In our contracts, we have renegotiation clauses to take account of variations in the price of raw materials. We will apply them. » And to justify: “If wheat or energy falls on world markets, this does not necessarily mean that the industrialist benefits immediately. It depends on its coverage rates and commitments. »

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    For Richard Panquiault, director general of the Institute for Liaison and Consumer Business Studies, which represents major suppliers, “we must respect the notion of symmetry between the moment when the distributor accepts the price increases and the moment when the manufacturer is able to lower them”. In summary : “We cannot call for a general reopening of trade negotiations. »

    Distributors fear that manufacturers will try to slow down the process. They seek at all costs to stem the decline in their sales volumes, which reached 5% in the first quarter over one year, according to the Circana Institute. And say to each other “surprised by the maneuver of the manufacturers, who explain that the renegotiation clauses included in the contracts are sufficient. These are the same people who said a year ago that they weren’t enough when prices were going up.”argues Jacques Creyssel, general delegate of the Federation of Commerce and Distribution, which represents the brands. “In forward gear, it’s fine, in reverse, it’s difficult”he said.

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