NCRMA to Biden: Grocers ‘disappointed’ in recent remarks blaming retailers for price inflation 

President Joe Biden speaks at the First in the Nation Celebration held by the South Carolina Democratic Party at the State Fairgrounds, Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Artie Walker Jr.)

RALEIGH — The N.C. Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA) sent a letter to President Joe Biden on Feb. 5 expressing disappointment in remarks made by Biden during a South Carolina campaign event in which he blamed food retailers for increased food prices.  

During his remarks in South Carolina, Biden had claimed “inflation was coming down” and listed prices dropping on items like eggs, milk, chicken, and gas before stating there are “still too many corporations ripping people off.” 

“Well, it’s going to stop. Americans, we’re tired of being played for suckers,” Biden said. “And that’s why we’re going to keep these guys — keep on them and get the prices down. Folks, the bottom line is our economy has grown more in the last six months than it ever did in any point in Trump’s entire four years in office. “  

NCRMA’s President and General Counsel Andy Ellen wrote to Biden on behalf of the 2,500 members of his organization and its grocery division, the Carolinas Food Industry Council.  

“Our grocers were recently disappointed by your remarks at South Carolina’s First in the Nation Dinner on Jan. 27, 2024, that American consumers were tired of being “played for suckers” by higher prices on eggs, milk, chicken, gas, and other essential items,” Ellen wrote. “The grocery industry is one of the most competitive marketplaces in both the retail sector and in the economy in general.” 

Ellen went on to say food retailers of all sizes, including discount stores, “serve their communities throughout the year” and that these organizations are the largest donors to local food banks, serve individuals utilizing SNAP and WIC, as well as being “the first to assist in a time of natural disasters.”  

“There are many external factors that have gone into increased food prices including the impact of avian flu on eggs, the price of aluminum on beverages, the impact of conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza on wheat and oil, higher wages and energy prices, and increased shoplifting just to name a few,” wrote Ellen.  

Ellen went on to write that even with those pressures, “the inflation for food-at-home (grocery store or supermarket food purchases) is up just 1.3% from January 2023, according to Federal Reserve Economic Data, January Release, data through Dec. 31, 2023.” 

“Your attention to these increased pressures on the grocery market is most appreciated to ensure these critical businesses can continue serving their communities,” Ellen wrote in closing.  

Bureau of Labor Statistics data comparing average retail food and energy prices from December 2022 and November 2023 in the South region, which includes North Carolina, shows most prices with small drops among most products.  

When it comes to chicken and eggs, both items have only continued to climb in the South region. Chicken breasts rose 3.1% and eggs rose 24.4% – the largest increase by far.  

Gas prices came down slightly in the BLS comparison, dropping by 2.1%. Under Biden, U.S. gas prices hit a record average high in Spring 2022 of over $5.00 and according to GasBuddy.com, as of Feb. 7, $3.12 is the national average price and $2.98 the average price in North Carolina. 

North State Journal reached out to the NCRMA for additional comment and a spokesperson said there was nothing more to add and said the “letter really covers it all.”

About A.P. Dillon 1251 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_