This is good news for the purchasing power of the French: according to the first estimate of INSEE unveiled on Wednesday, inflation slowed markedly in May in France, to 5.1% over one year, after having reached 5.9% in April and more than 6% at the start of the year. This improvement would be due to the "slowdown over one year in energy prices (...) of manufactured goods and services" but also food, up 14.1% over one year in May after having increased 15% in April.
“I had always indicated that at the start of summer we would see inflation slow down, we are there and it is slowing down”, welcomed the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire this morning on France Inter. “There are a number of prices that are going to start coming down,” he promised. Foodstuffs are in the sights of Bercy. While the prices of raw materials, such as wheat, continue to fall, the repercussions on the shelves are slow to be felt. "On food, we must accelerate the decline," said Bruno Le Maire.
For the Minister, “the distributors have kept their commitment”, by agreeing to set up the “inflation quarter”. Large surfaces have also agreed to extend the measure beyond June 1. It is therefore the turn of the industrialists to make an effort. On May 17, the 75 largest food groups, represented by Ilec and Ania, were received at Bercy. Before the Minister of the Economy, they had undertaken to reopen trade negotiations with distributors in view of the fall in the price of raw materials.
But many companies would not have played the game, according to Bruno Le Maire. But the ultimatum set by Bercy - "early June" - is approaching. The Minister has therefore for the first time explained the sanctions to which reluctant industrialists are exposed. “Either the industrialists keep their commitments, or I would use the tax instrument to give back what they owe to the consumers”, he declared at the microphone of Léa Salamé and Nicolas Demorand. More specifically, it will be a “taxation of very large agrifood companies”, in the words of the minister. The objective of the punishment: "to recover the margins of the industrialists and to return them to the consumers".
Still, the contours of this sword of Damocles remain very vague. Who will be targeted by this levy? Only the big agri-food groups or all the recalcitrant industrialists? Can the “industrial margins” reasonably be used as a base for the tax, as Bruno Le Maire seems to want? “We do not go into these details”, is satisfied to answer the ministry for the Economy, recognizing that it is about a “weapon of last recourse”. Not sure that the warning makes the agro-industrialists tremble.