"Since the summer we have been witnessing this jockeying with figures on the prices front. Over the past two months our organisation has been monitoring a sample of food shops every week to see how the situation is developing. We are aware of the international tensions affecting certain products, but we can say that the variations so far have mostly been cushioned in this sector, often without affecting retail prices. But this situation cannot continue indefinitely. Since July, for example, in a series of stages the production costs of milk byproducts have risen by up to 18%, which have not been passed on to the final consumer. We are now waiting for the September price lists which will tell us exactly what is going to happen on the prices front. If the price increases predicted for this autumn are confirmed, Confcommercio cannot fail to take the side of the consumers. For it is difficult to justify increases by the industry which could be as high as 10% due to increases in raw materials prices which only partly affect the formation of the end price."
Antonio Giorgetti, the President of the Umbria Regional Confcommercio, had this to say about prices.
"As early as July we were warned of a 'hot Autumn' as prices were concerned. The pasta makers began by reporting the alarming increase in the price of wheat on the international markets and the resultant adjustments to their own price lists. This was the fault of the increased prices of alternative crops such as maize and sunflower, from which the first eco-fuels are being derived, as well as speculation over the price increases which would primarily be to the benefit of the farmers. The farmers immediately retorted, however, to allay any suspicion from falling on them. Then the small producers entered the debate, alarmed at the increase in the prices of raw materials which ran the risk of affecting the final cost of their products.
"In these jockeying with figures and shifting responsibilities," said Giorgetti, "the commercial sector is not prepared to play its usual part as the scapegoat for the whole industry.
"While we share the concern and dismay over the constant increase in the prices of energy and services, which certainly have repercussions at every level, we are fed up with having to be the only buffers between producers and consumers, as we have been over the past five years.
"Here again, as in the past, the member companies will do everything possible to intercept the needs of consumers who are finding it increasingly more difficult to get through to the end of the month. But our protection and transparency for the benefit of our customers must not be blurred by cryptic statements by consumers' associations who never lose a chance to heat up the debate.
"It is untrue to claim that in 2007 food prices rose by over 7%, and it runs the risk of playing down the real emergency situation that is expected in the autumn. Over the past year retail food prices rose by about 2.5% (Istat data) without taking account of the promotional offers that now account for about one-fourth of all the food sold and halve the index. The cost of a cup of coffee, just to give one example, is not one Euro as many had predicted, but in Perugia and the largest towns in Umbria, the average price is still 80 cents, and no significant increase is expected in the foreseeable future.
"We therefore trust," concluded Giorgetti, "that the initiative taken by the consumers' associations will become an opportunity for cool-headed dialogue, seeking to identify family needs and possible solutions to them."