Brazil’s Bolsonaro says supermarkets ‘committed’ to lowering prices on basic goods

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro gestures before a ceremony of lowering the national flag for the night, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, Brazil

Brazil’s supermarkets are “committed” to lowering the prices of basic foodstuffs, President Jair Bolsonaro said on Wednesday, hours after the Justice Ministry said it would ask supermarkets to explain recent price increases for some products.

Speaking at the presidential palace in Brasilia, Bolsonaro said there would be no government interference “whatsoever” in the food retail sector.

Earlier in the day, the Justice Ministry’s consumer protection unit said supermarkets will have five days to reply to the request regarding rising prices. Both the Justice Ministry and Bolsonaro referred 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.

Also on Wednesday, the Brazilian government suspended import tariffs on rice until the end of the year, citing high domestic prices for the grain.

In a statement 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 said that domestic demand had also increased due to emergency aid payments that Brazilians are currently receiving from the government.

In his Wednesday statement, Bolsonaro offered similar explanations for the recent rise in prices.

“Some good news today: I talked with two supermarket authorities,” Bolsonaro said. “Essentially, they’re price takers, and they’re committed to reducing the price of the basic basket.”

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

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