Canadians love to discuss the weather, hockey and all matters related to food. The latest edition of Canada’s Food Price Report, jointly compiled by four post-secondary institutions including the University of Guelph, predicts a 3 to 5 percent increase across 2021, translating to an additional $700 on grocery bills for a family of four.
In 2020, the cost of food escalated at approximately 2.7 percent. The list of factors leading to the 2021 forecast is lengthy and includes border closures, plant closures, labour shortages, and shifts in consumer demand. At the retail level, on-going expenses associated with cleaning practices, protective equipment, and plexiglass shields will be ultimately passed to consumers.
An area of concern cited by the Food Price Report is the 4.5 to 6.5 percent forecasted increase in the cost of vegetables. Consumers have been advised for many years to maintain consumption of these products and hopefully prices will stabilize in the summer months as the harvest commences and supplies increase.
From the perspective of Canadian farmers, an alliance of prairie producers recently stated that while store prices for many products have increased, farmgate prices have decreased. Specifically, producer returns for wheat dropped approximately 3 percent from April 2019 to October of 2020.
According to Brett Halstead, chair of the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, several factors influence store prices, however the cost of wheat is not a major issue. Canadian consumers maintain low costs for food relative to their incomes while accessing one of the safest and high-quality supplies in the world.
A recent report from a major media outlet in southern Ontario called the pandemic a “nightmare” for farmers in Haldimand and Norfolk counties. Challenges in securing workers for planting and harvest have been extensively documented. Across Ontario and Canada, production issues at processing plants require farmers to maintain animals on farms for extended periods of time, initiating additional costs.
Farmers and the accompanying businesses that process and transport food across Canada are clearly an essential service. Many of our neighbours across Waterloo Region are included and need support from consumers and all levels of government to continue their vital efforts. We are all in this together.
Written by Art Sinclair