Chillin'Competition

Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

The Endive Brainstorming Room

with 2 comments

Yesterday we said we were surprised by the number of people who had suggested us to comment on the fine imposed on French endive growers. Our post on this issue has given rise to very profound competition law related thoughts.

This is why we have created The Endive Brainstorming Room.

In addition to Hans Zenger’s brilliant comment on endives and Giffen goods (see the comments to yesterday’s post), over the past few hours several people have conveyed to us their views on endives:

Well-known Commission official:

I think the typically insightful analysis on your blog of the endives cartel has left a couple of important questions unanswered:

First, given that endives figured large on the menu at Garenmarkt a full 20 years ago, I think we should be looking at the possible 102 aspects and not only the 101.  There’s clearly some durable market power at work here.  The only plausible explanation of this continuing position of dominance must be exclusionary conduct as against those vegetables that are not utterly unpleasant.

Second, I think this cuts to the heart of the consumer welfare problem in antitrust.  Surely consumer welfare is enhanced by endives being priced at as high a possible level, thereby reducing demand? Is the cartel therefore not welfare enhancing?”

– Raymond Radiguet:

Alfonso and Nicolas use this blog to promote vegetables other than endives, which is fine with me. However, the claim that no one likes endives is so obvious that it is simply hilarious“.

– Current students at the College of Europe:

One student says “there is a maverick around here: last week (during dinner on Wednesday 29) a law professor was heard stating “I like endives; it’s a pity that they are not as bitter as they used to be”. “Seed selection should be blamed for this”, he added.

Another student tells us that in reality endives are not dominant: “at most, they are part of a duopoly; I would argue that endives and frites are collectively dominant“.

A third ELEA student commented that ” ‘Roulade de jambon avec endives’ sounds good but tastes horrible“.

– The anonymous lawyer who has found the solution to the debt crisis:

First email: “Great post! So the French are enforcing competition law in the agricultural sector. Cripes – whatever next?! Will DG COMP pay OPEC a visit in Vienna??

Second email (2 minutes later): “Thinking about it, that would be a way to solve Europe’s debt problem – fine all OPEC countries 10% of their turnover! This is brilliant! I’ve found the solution to the crisis!!!!”

If you have any additional reflections on the relationship between endives and competition law/economics that you just can’t keep for yourself, please share them with us.

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

8 March 2012 at 3:36 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Just trying to define a market here in line with UBC (para. 31):

    THE endive HAS CERTAIN CHARACTERISTICS , APPEARANCE , TASTE(?) , (lack of) SOFTNESS , SEEDLESSNESS , EASY HANDLING , A CONSTANT LEVEL OF PRODUCTION WHICH ENABLE IT TO SATISFY THE CONSTANT NEEDS OF AN IMPORTANT SECTION OF THE POPULATION CONSISTING OF THE …. who exactly?

    As to the comments by the students at CdE: if seed selection is to be blamed for current endive taste being less bitter there is finally a reason to disagree with the judgment in Nungesser.

    Hans Vedder

    8 March 2012 at 3:56 pm

  2. I think there is a market definition that has not been properly considered by commentators, and where endives and spinaches together form a clear duopoly: the market of vegetables served by parents to young children exclusively to prove their authority over their descendants. Those two vegetables are the most likely to allow parents to pronounce the sentence “If you don’t finish your endives/spinaches you won’t have your dessert”. I suspect that the non-named COE professor was referring to that market, when he regretted that endives are not as bitter as they used to be, and not to a market where he himself would have to taste them. This is actually the only plausible market definition within which I can conceive that someone would accept to pay for endives.

    Tatiana López

    14 March 2012 at 12:57 pm


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