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Canada's food prices on the rise, relief not in sight until at least the fall

Last Updated Jul 21, 2021 at 11:02 am PDT


There are a number of factors at play pushing food prices up, but simply put, it's costing more to produce what we buy

Sylvain Charlebois with Agri-Food Analytics Lab says prices for staples like peanut butter, meat also rising

Charlebois says things will remain challenging on the food price front for the time being

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – You may have noticed your groceries slowly costing more, and with the U.S. not reopening its side of the border to non-essential travel for at least another month, you won’t be able to head south for cheap milk and cheese.

There are a number of factors at play. But simply put, it’s costing more to produce the food we buy, and that’s happening around the world.

“For the longest time, the last 12 months or so, we were able to import our way out of food inflation or if, for example, if a product in Canada was not available, we were able to import a product from elsewhere and priced pretty much the same as if it came from Canada. But with a weaker dollar, things may actually get a little bit more challenging for importers,” explained Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.

You can’t forget the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on virtually all aspects of life. Charlebois says the health crisis has played a big role in increasing food prices, but climate change is also a culprit.

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Charlebois points to crops of produce that were damaged or lost to B.C.’s record-breaking heatwave last month as just a recent example of how the weather is impacting what we eat.

“I would say it’s the second worst,” he explained of the situation we’re currently in. “The worst was probably 2014, when prices went up about six per cent on average. We were expecting the food inflation rate to be about five per cent in December, when we released Canada’s Food Price Report. That’s pretty much where we’re heading for this year.”

He says even prices for staples like peanut butter, meat, and baked goods are also going up. Peanut butter has pretty much been priced the same since 2000 in Canada, he notes, but it’s gone up six per cent this year.

“That’s due to the fact that COVID has actually slowed things down logistically and it’s costing more to move things around,” Charlebois told NEWS 1130.

Though the pandemic situation appears to be improving in Canada, Charlebois says things will remain challenging on the food price front for the time being.

“Things will likely calm down when we get to end of September, early October, when our own harvest will kick in. And we are expecting the economy to normalize itself a little bit more, so things will be more predictable,” he explained. “When things get more predictable for the entire food supply chain, it tends allow companies to control cost. But until then, things will remain choppy.”

He recommends shopping around for the lowest prices until they start coming back down. Charlebois notes frozen items also tend to not be quite as volatile, so shopping in those aisles for the time being may help lessen the blow on your wallet.

In December 2020, Canada’s Food Price Report said the average Canadian family would pay up to an extra $695 for food in 2021. It cited the pandemic, wildfires, and changing consumer habits as reasons driving up grocery bills to the highest increase ever predicted by a food price report.