Thursday, June 26, 2008

Milk Gouging Exposed

NY1 is reporting that NYS has raised the state-controlled price for milk: "The state-controlled price for a gallon of milk will go up to $4.37 starting in July. That is 44 cents higher than the current price and 72 cents more than it cost on May 1. City dairy officials say several factors are to blame, including rising fuel, lower corn supplies and the floods in the Midwest."

Now it wasn't long ago that the city council had a press conference that trumpeted an "investigation" that demonstrated that local markets were gouging customers on the cost of milk. The council report claimed: "Forty-three of the 50 stores surveyed (86%) charged a price that was higher than the threshold for at least one unit of milk. The 43 surveyed retailers that charged above the threshold for at least one unit of milk charged an average of $0.40 per unit above the threshold. Twelve (63.2%) of the 19 supermarkets surveyed charged above the threshold for at least one unit of milk. A total of 458 units of milk were surveyed,11 with 238 (51.9%) units priced above the threshold."

Now, however, it appears that the investigation did little more than prove that all food retailers were simply reflecting the higher distribution costs. As one milk dealer told NY1: "With the huge increases in gasoline, which is driving all these other factors, normally we're able to predict going forward based on supply and demand and -- what prices are going to be, but I wouldn't even venture a guess," said Henry Beyer, president of Beyer Farms and Tuscan Dairy."

Ase said at the time, the who;e claim was bogus something that the council recognized, even though the recognition was buried in the report: "And ironically, the council does understand this to some degree. Yet it buried this understanding under the sensational "findings" in its report. On page 12 we find: "Finally, it must be recognized that rising rents, high operating costs and slim margins have made it difficult for supermarkets to thrive in New York City."

All city officials must understand that high local operating costs-particularly taxes and regulations-are crippling supermarkets and other smaller food stores. That's where the focus of attention should be placed when the issue is the high cost of food and the disappearance of local markets.