Dáil Éireann - Volume 668 - 20 November, 2008

Written Answers. - Grocery Industry.

Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the extent to which grocery prices have fallen since she came into office; if she is satisfied with the measures taken to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41288/08]

  Deputy Mary Coughlan: Grocery prices and their impact on household budgets have been the subject of much debate and concern for some time not just in this country but throughout the world.

Whereas food inflation in Ireland remained relatively low throughout most of this decade, prices for a wide range of staple food items began to increase significantly from the early part of 2007. Annual food inflation continued to rise and reached a peak of 9.3% in March this year as per the published returns of the Central Statistics Office. The annual rate of food inflation at the time of my appointment as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in May 2008 was 7.8%. The annual rate has since decreased to 4.6% as of October and indeed food prices, as measured by the Central Statistics Office, have fallen in each of the last five months.

Whilst much of the inflation experienced in the area of food prices was due to global factors including demand, economic and climatic reasons, consumers can also influence prices in the marketplace by actively seeking out the best value for money. The National Consumer Agency, through its well publicised Grocery Comparison Surveys, has provided consumers with the necessary price information to enable them to seek out best value. Research commissioned by the Agency shows that a significant number of consumers are changing their shopping habits to achieve value for money, which undoubtedly is having an effect on prices in the marketplace.

Whilst I very much welcome the recent reductions in food prices, I am conscious of the impact of grocery expenditure on the average household budget. It is important, therefore, that the importance of achieving value remains in the forefront of this debate and that through the ongoing work of the National Consumer Agency in conjunction with continued discernment by consumers themselves, recent progress in tackling food inflation can continue.