The average Canadian family can expect to spend an extra $695 on food next year, as the pandemic, wildfires, and changing consumer habits will increase grocery bills to the highest increase ever predicted by the annual food price report, CP24 reports.
According to Canada’s 2021 Food Price Report which was released this morning, the rising prices of bread, meat, and vegetables are the main factor in the overall food price increase of three to five percent. The increase means the average family of four will spend $13,907 on groceries next year.
Sylvain Charlebois, lead author and Dalhousie University professor of food distribution and policy, said that “We don't expect a break at the grocery store any time soon. This is the highest increase that we've ever expected.”
This is the 11th edition of the food price report, which was published by Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph, as well as the University of Saskatchewan and the University of British Columbia. COVID-19 will continue to have an impact on food prices next year, say researchers, especially with the meat industry being impacted heavily by the virus.
Meat prices are expected to rise by as much as 6.5 percent, with the biggest hike being poultry, which is supply managed in Canada. Poultry prices have already risen by seven percent since the summer.
“We are expecting poultry prices to be a bit of an issue,” says Cahrlebois. “If farmers are asked to spend more on equipment and COVID-19 cleaning protocols, consumers will eventually have to pay more.”
Another factor responsible for the rising food prices is climate change, which is responsible for heat waves, ice loss, wildfires, floods and droughts. This will particularly impact the prices of vegetables, which the report says are expected to rise by up to 6.5 percent.
This is partly because a lot of the produce that Canadians consume comes from California, which was hit with one of its worst wildfire seasons this year. The fires heavily compromised California's crops, leading to a decrease in quantity.
Stuart Smyth, an associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics of the University of Saskatchewan said that “Vegetables are where people are going to notice the greatest impact.”
The prices of root crops like potatoes and carrots are expected to remain stable, but the leafy greens and perishable produce like tomatoes and cucumbers will be more pricey. The biggest increase is expected for cabbages, cauliflowers, and asparagus.
The study also expects bakery prices to rise by up to 5.5 percent, as the cost of a bushel of wheat is now $6, a 50 percent increase from $4 18 months ago.
According to Smyth, this is due to a supply and demand issue, the demand for wheat has risen in the last year. “If we hold supply constant but the demand goes up, essentially we're falling a little bit behind,” he said.
The food report also broke down the cost of food for people based on age and gender, to allow consumer groups to estimate how much they can expect to pay for food. The report found that men aged 31 to 50 can expect to pay an additional $169 for food next year, while women the same age will pay $152 more.