Brazil to question supermarkets on food price increases

BRASILIA, Sept 9 (Reuters) - The consumer protection unit of Brazil’s Justice Ministry will ask supermarkets to explain a recent increase in prices for basic foodstuffs, it said in a Wednesday statement.

In the statement, the National Secretary for the Consumer said supermarkets will have five days to reply to the request for information. It referred specifically to what is known in Brazil as the “basic basket,” a medley of foods such as flour, eggs and bread, that are considered key sources of nutrition for families.

If there is any indication that supermarkets are practicing abusive pricing practices, they could face fines of over 10 million reais ($1.88 million).

In a statement published last week, Brazilian supermarket industry association Abras said suppliers had increased prices, which it viewed as a worrying trend. It said those prices were driven by increased food exports and declining food imports, which in turn are caused by a depreciation of the Brazilian real against the dollar.

Abras added that domestic demand had also increased due to emergency aid payments that Brazilians are currently receiving from the government.

Brazil’s largest food retailers are Carrefour Brasil and GPA, owned by France’s Carrefour SA and Casino Guichard Perrachon SA, respectively.

Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello in Brasilia Writing by Gram Slattery Editing by Matthew Lewis