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Feds: Grocery chain profits soared during and after pandemic

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Suzanne Potter

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(California News Service) Consumer groups are accusing major grocery retailers - like Amazon, Kroger and Walmart - of price gouging, both during and after the pandemic.

The allegation of corporate greed comes after a new report from the Federal Trade Commission found profits for grocery chains jumped sharply, at rates that could not be justified by supply chain disruptions.

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Angela Huffman is president of the nonprofit Farm Action.

"It's one thing to raise your prices to cover higher expenses, but what these companies did is use the pandemic as an excuse to exploit the American people who needed to put food on their tables," said Huffman. "And the FTC report shows that they're still doing it, here in 2024."

The report found that retailer profits rose to 6 percent over total costs in 2021, and 7 percent in the first three quarters of 2023 - compared to 5.6 percent in 2015.

According to a report from Help Advisor, California households pay the highest grocery costs in the country, averaging almost $300 a week - about $27 more than the national average.

The Food Industry Association blames today's high prices on high labor costs and credit card payment fees.

Huffman said she thinks the feds should take anti-trust action to increase competition - and consider forcing the grocery behemoths to break up.

"That would be the ideal outcome is to take away their excessive power," said Huffman. "But other than that, these companies can be fined for this kind of price gouging. And that's another action we would support. There needs to be some kind of consequences."

The FTC staff report recommends "further inquiry by the commission and policymakers," but doesn't propose specific remedies.