(Bloomberg) -- Canada’s Competition Bureau is launching a study of grocery store competition in the country amid a growing outcry over surging prices for food.

While extreme weather, higher input costs, supply chain disruptions and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may have contributed to higher food inflation, the antitrust watchdog said it wants to better understand whether lack of competition is also at play, according to a statement released Monday. 

Canada’s food-retail sector is dominated by industry giants such as Loblaw Cos., owned by the billionaire Weston family, Nova Scotia-based Sobeys Inc. and Walmart Inc.

With inflation hovering at four-decade highs, Canadian consumers are facing a massive decline in their purchasing power. Last month, prices for food purchased from stores were up 11% from a year ago, the fastest annual gain since August 1981. 

The bureau said more competition could mean “lower prices, more choices, and better convenience for consumers.” 

The study, which is expected to conclude on June 2023, will examine three key questions: How much are competitive dynamics driving up food prices? What lessons can be drawn from other countries? And what steps can be taken to increase competitiveness?

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