The Spanish authorities have weighed into the debate over food prices with the publication last week on the department of agriculture's website of both producer and retailer prices for a selection of food products.
The government has already begun an investigation into the pricing policies of the major retailers in Spain after a significant increase in prices for various fresh products in September. The retailers blamed the increase on the hot summer weather reducing supplies, but MAPA, the Spanish agriculture department, said that the increases were too great to have been caused solely by this factor.
As a result, MAPA has posted the prices of 10 products on its website in order to give greater transparency to consumers and allow them to see the retailers' mark up.
The prices, which will be updated weekly, cover clementines, lemons, Golden Delicious apples, pears, salad tomatoes, green peppers, onions, green beans, potatoes and fresh chicken.
The prices will also be posted on the websites of the ministries of economy and health.
In order to establish a figure for the producer price, the authorities used the price paid for the fruit, vegetables or meat at farmers' markets in those parts of Spain which best represented each of the items on the list, taking the average of three prices sampled over the week.
As for the retail prices, the ministry took the national average price per kilo for each product as calculated by the ministry of economy.
In every case there was a substantial mark-up in price. For example, the producer price per kilo for clementines was €0.28, while the retail price was seven times higher at €1.96. For apples, the increase was five fold, from €0.27 to €1.35, while for most other products the increase varied by between two and four times.
For some observers, the fact that the government has taken the decision to publish the prices is a vindication of their claims that the retail trade has a stranglehold on the Spanish food industry.
The COAG farmers' association has been one of the most vociferous critics of supermarket pricing policies, and was one of several groups to ask for the official publication of producer and retailer prices finally introduced by the government.
But now it wants the government to go further and take further measures to curb what it calls "the abuse of commercial margins".
Among the measures sought by the association is a national price watchdog, independent of the government and the food industry, which would provide real time information about both producer and retailer prices.
It also wants retailers' margins to be made public, the introduction of dual pricing and the introduction of new agreements between producers and retailers giving farmers and growers a better deal.