The average Canadian family can expect to pay 4 per cent more for groceries next year led by meat because of a complex interplay of environmental, biological, geopolitical and trade issues, new university research says.
The cost of food for the average Canadian family will rise by $487 to $12,667 next year, according to Canada’s Food Price Report by Dalhousie University in Halifax and the University of Guelph.
One in eight Canadian households is food insecure and food affordability is a major issue
British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, and Prince Edward Island are expected to exceed the national average increases, while price hikes in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia are forecast to be lower, the researchers said. Consumers in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador are likely to see price hikes similar to the national average, according to the report.
“Food inflation is desirable, but when prices increase quickly families can be left behind,” Sylvain Charlebois, the report’s lead author and a professor at Dalhousie, said in a statement Wednesday. “One in eight Canadian households is food insecure and food affordability is a major issue,” Guelph project lead Simon Somogyi said.
The ever-increasing use of food banks across the country shows us how many Canadians can’t afford to put food on their plates
Meat led the forecast with a projected price rise of 4 to 6 per cent, while vegetables may rise 2 to 4 per cent, fruits may cost 1.5 to 3.5 per cent more and seafood 2 to 4 per cent extra, the report shows. Dairy items are marked for a 1 to 3 per cent hike while bakery goods may come in at up to 2 per cent more expensive, according to the forecast using predictive analysis and machine learning algorithms.
Most of those estimates are near double Canada’s current overall rate of inflation of less than 2 per cent. The Bank of Canada held its benchmark interest rate at 1.75 per cent for its ninth consecutive meeting on Wednesday, a move in part to stem rising household borrowing.
“Canadians aren’t making more money, so they’re taking money away from other parts of their budgets just to eat and that gets tougher and tougher,” Somogyi said. “The ever-increasing use of food banks across the country shows us how many Canadians can’t afford to put food on their plates.”
Some 863,000 Canadian use a food bank each month, a 28 per cent increase since 2008, according to a Nov. 29 report by the United Food and Commercial Workers union.
The main catalysts for higher food prices are climate change, geopolitical conflicts, single-use plastic packaging and the effect of increasingly protectionist trade environments on Canada’s exports, Dalhousie researcher Eamonn McGuinty said. He also cited disease outbreaks and the disruption of the supply chain by technology that’s led to more customized food options.
Canadians have embraced plant-based foods, if the response to fake meats at fast food chains this year is any indication, but vegetables are predicted to rise in price only second to meat, the report shows.
Dalhousie’s Charlebois called on the agriculture sector and the government to support policies promoting the year-round production of fruits and vegetables, including subsidies for indoor and greenhouse farming and funding for research that helps it.
Canada should also develop alternatives to single-use plastic materials, legislate plastic use, and implement tax regimes that encourage producer responsibility, he said.
“Canada’s new Food Guide encourages Canadians to eat more vegetables, but they’re getting more expensive,” Dalhousie’s Charlebois said. “Increasing the amount of vegetables and fruits we produce domestically would be a great start in solving this problem.”
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