By Nita Balani
MISSISSAUGA: It is not Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory story. In fact, far removed from that, it is The Chocolate Giants Implicated in Price Wars.
What is the world coming to? Chocolate price fixing?
We have heard of commodity price wars, IPL cricket match-fixing in India, race fixing, stock price fixing, and insider trading. But who could suspect price fixing when it comes to our sweet little innocent candy?
Chocolates are just an innocuous little bit of indulgence, and their price has been creeping up slowly even as the chocolate bar has been shrinking in size thanks to clever new design and packaging.
So it was no surprise when the Competition Bureau of Canada on Thursday laid charges against Nestle Canada Inc, Mars Canada and IIWAL Limited which is a network of wholesale distributors, for conspiring to fix prices of Canadian chocolate products. Since it is a criminal offence under the Competition Act, the guilty could face fines up to $10 million and jail terms up to 5 years.
Those in the dock include former Nestle Canada president Robert Leonidas, former Nestle Canada confectionery president Sandra Martinez and ITWAL president David Glenn Stevens. Hershey’s Canada, apparently implicated as well, cooperated with the investigation and as such will receive leniency in exchange.
In my opinion, prices of chocolate here in Canada are quite high. And if you have travelled to other countries, you would have noticed this too. Every family likes to buy this for their self indulgence or as a treat or a reward or as a gift. Chocolate has been used as a tender for bartering when it comes to your kids to do their chores or homework or as a bribe or dangled as a carrot on a stick in order to make them do better. It is celebrated at Halloween and Christmas and Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day when retailers sell tons of this dark gold and add to the corporate coffers. So to find out that even this sweet little innocent piece of human indulgence has been defiled by trickery and secret meetings to place a price on it – now that is the last bastion of decency.
Why don’t we all form a Chocolate Board of Ontario and control the prices? I, for one, would love to be the Chairperson and I am sure I would have thousands of people who would be happy to volunteer their time to steer the agenda forward to keep the prices on this precious commodity affordable, low, and free from taxes.
We would also print a lovely glossy magazine dedicated to tributes and works of art in the name of chocolate (just like the LCBO and its Food and Drink Magazine) to drool over and decorate our coffee tables. We would also have special chocolate outlets which exclusive rights to sell chocolate and it would not be available over the counter at any other retail outlets. This is just for starters…
(Hailing from Mumbai, Nita Balani is based in Mississauga on the outskirts of Toronto)