5 October 2009 | Allie Anderson
The deputy president of South Africa has pledged the government's unrelenting commitment to fighting suspected price-fixing among major food suppliers.
In his address to the 10th annual Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) conference in Johannesburg last month, Kgalema Motlanthe highlighted seven cases of collusion being investigated or prosecuted by the authorities.
Suspected price-fixing schemes in the bread, maize, dairy and poultry industries have been referred to the Competition Tribunal. The country's Competition Commission (CC) is investigating other cases in the fats and oils sector.
"It is unacceptable that food prices should be artificially inflated through the collusive scheming among the major suppliers, resulting in more misery for the poor. The state will be, and is, unrelenting in dealing with this sort of crime," Motlanthe said.
Meanwhile, the CC is also probing South Africa's biggest supermarkets amid fears they have broken competition rules. In a speech at the Agricultural Economics Association of South Africa's conference in Durban last month, professor Johann Kirsten said consumers will always pay high food prices if cosy relationships between major supermarkets and food suppliers continue, reported the Independent Online.
Addressing the COSATU, Molanthe also commented on the government's new payment assistance hotline, which will facilitate payment to SMEs within 30 days of delivery of goods or services. The hotline is part of the government's commitment to supporting small businesses, many of which have suffered in the economic slump (news, 23 September 2009).