British Columbians should expect to fork out hundreds of dollars more on food next year, as inflationary pressures continue to tax consumers' wallets, according to the 2023 Canada’s Food Price Report.
Overall, food prices are expected to rise from five per cent to seven per cent, according to the food systems experts from Dalhousie University, the University of Guelph, the University of British Columbia and the University of Saskatchewan.
Last year, the experts underestimated the impact of inflation as they predicted an increase of up to seven per cent; whereas the actual numbers, to October, show increases of about 10.5 per cent — although B.C.’s food price changes have rung in lower than any other province, at 9.2 per cent.
“Canada also saw the highest rate of food inflation since the 1980s — a 40-year high. Adverse climate events, rising geopolitical tensions, high oil prices, and a falling Canadian dollar all contribute to retail food prices,” stated the experts.
This year, bakery (grains) goods have risen 14.8 per cent, as opposed to an expected seven per cent, while fruits (11.4 per cent) and vegetables (12.7 per cent) are the other big inflaters. More modest increases in meat (7.6 per cent) and restaurant items (7.5 per cent) were observed, while dairy has shot up 9.7 per cent.
If next year’s forecast holds true, a family of four can expect to pay $16,288.41 per year on food, an increase of up to $1,065.60 from what was observed in 2022.
Costs vary depending on sex and age of a person. A boy aged 14 to 18 years old incurred costs of $4,349.69 in 2022, more than any other demographic. Parents can expect to now pay just over $300 more, or $4,654.17 total, for their son. A girl the same age will cost $3,867.62. Pregnant and nursing women will also feel greater price shock at the grocer’s check stand, with cost rising close to $300 next year. It was pregnant women under the age of 18 who experienced the greatest rises in costs this year, above the expected forecast.
The report shows food insecurity is on the rise, and cites Food Banks Canada data; there were nearly 1.5 million visits to food banks in 2022, marking the highest use in history with an increase of 35 per cent, from 2020.
The report notes there is no evidence of “greedflation,” or grocers hiking prices unnecessarily. In October, the Competition Bureau announced it was going to study grocery store competition in Canada.
As for other reasons, supply chain disruptions leading to “shelflation” may be a factor, as 63 per cent of Canadians noted that they had to throw away food prematurely at least once in six months, according to a survey by AgriFood Analytics Lab.
And grain prices have spiked due to the war waged by Russia in Ukraine, the two of which produce 27 per cent of global wheat exports. Ukraine also produces mass amounts of sunflower oil and fertilizer. An international agreement to keep these goods in the market is expected to ease price pressures, the report suggests.
Canada’s carbon tax may also be impacting prices, said the report: “The added cost of a carbon tax will increase production and transportation costs associated with food and may be passed on to the consumer as producers try to remain profitable.”
Conversely, food production is being impacted negatively by climate change-related weather events around the world.
Canadians will also be paying more for U.S. imports as the loonie drops in value, the experts noted.
Helping ease inflation will be recent interest rate hikes and “consumer awareness” of prices, leading to more price-conscious consumers.