Food prices continue to climb despite falling inflation: StatsCan survey

Experts cite international events like the Russian-Ukraine war as a driver of food inflation and the Canadian dollar's lesser value than the U.S. dollar.

Food prices continue to climb despite falling inflation: StatsCan survey
Facebook/ Chrystia Freeland and THE CANADIAN PRESS/Liam Richards
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Food prices in Canada skyrocketed in 2022 owing to runaway inflation. Record numbers have accessed food banks to feed their families, with many forced to cut back — a pervasive trend that has continued midway through the year.

Canada's Food Price Report 2023 predicted a 5% to 7% food price increase in 2023 following 10% increases last year, with vegetables, dairy and meat becoming more expensive.

As of July 2023, inflation has overtaken the Canada Food Guide, according to Health Canada. Since last updating the Food Guide in 2019, prices for the most recommended foods have sharply risen.

"Not only are some nutritious foods more difficult to find, but they can also be more expensive," said the report Evaluation Of The Office Of Nutrition Policy And Promotion.

Only 30% of Canadians are eating the recommended minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, reported Blacklock's Reporter.

Higher prices for basic groceries like cabbage and spaghetti are running at three and four times the rate of general inflation, showed new Statistics Canada figures. 

Despite food inflation facing double-digit increases for several consecutive months, overall inflation has fallen for much of 2023.

"Inflation in Canada is down to 3.4%, the lowest rate in nearly two years," said Finance Minister Christian Freeland on June 27. "This is good news for Canadians and the Canadian economy!"

However, the average family of four is expected to spend up to $16,288.41 annually on food this year — up an additional $1,065.60 from 2022.

In its latest report on Monthly Average Retail Prices For Selected Products, StatsCan documented dramatic inflation in grocery items year over year, reported Blacklock's Reporter.

A kilogram of cabbage rose 12% from $2.71 to $3.03 a head, while half a kilo of spaghetti rose a fifth from $2.92 to $3.51. The consumer costs for other notable food items like margarine, chicken and grapes rose between 11% to 34%.

"The data source is scanner data obtained directly from Canadian retailers," reads the 2023 report.

Experts cite international events like the Russian-Ukraine war as a driver of food inflation and the Canadian dollar's lesser value than the U.S. dollar. 

"The uncertainty from the ongoing Ukraine war shows no signs of ceasing, and the Canadian dollar compared to the U.S. dollar has recently ranged five to seven cents lower, and this has driven up the cost of all imported American products," said Dr. Stuart Smyth, University of Saskatchewan campus lead.

In December, he attributed labour shortages in critical sectors, such as crop harvesting, food processing, and transportation and lower food supply for continued food inflation.

According to StatsCan, food prices rose faster in 2022 than in any year since 1981. The cost of food rose by at least 9.2% in each province last December over one year.

Last September, inflation fell from 8.1% to 6.9%, yet the cost of food rose a staggering 10.8% compared to September 2021. Bread, eggs, fresh fruit, fats and oil also increased by as much as 27.7% nationwide.

TD Bank conducted an inflation analysis last April, stating, "Consumer prices continue to rise at rates not seen in decades." 

With fuel, food, and housing prices leading the way, TD senior economist James Orlando said, "Many of us are reminded of the double-digit inflation of the 1970s and early 1980s."

The StatCan Income Survey found 5.8 million Canadians lived in food-insecure households last year, with 1.5 million people accessing food banks in March — the highest monthly toll in Canadian history.

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