Food prices will rise in 2017 and it's good news for local farmers
Sylvain Charlebois, lead author of Canada's Food Price Report, published on Monday says food prices will rise in Canada and you can thank for that a weak dollar and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump. CBC Hamilton's Conrad Collaco spoke with Charlebois Tuesday morning about what to expect in food prices in 2017 and what can be done about rising costs.
Charlebois is the Dean of the Faculty of Management at Dalhousie University. Click on the image at the top of this page to hear the full interview or read an edited and abridged transcript below.
Sylvain Charlebois, lead author of Canada's Food Price Report
In 2016, the ten dollar cauliflower became an infamous symbol of rising food prices. What was the story behind that spike?
The dollar dropped by ten cents in just a few weeks. Food importers had to pay more for food but they didn't think much about retail prices. Consumers started to notice food prices increase suddenly including cauliflower. Lettuce and celery went up more than cauliflower but for some reason consumers zoned in to that mighty cauliflower back in 2016.Which fruits or vegetables are likely to cost much more in 2017?
I don't think we'll hear about tomatoes being too expensive because they are very popular and people buy a lot of them. We could see an item spike that we don't buy that often, but when we do buy we look at the price, like pineapples or artichokes — things we don't necessarily grow in Canada or are really exposed to currency fluctuations.What can you tell us about what our overall grocery bills might be like next year?
We expect food prices to increase by three to five percent. That's actually really high. It's beyond the sweet spot for food inflation. Five percent would equate to about $420 for the average Canadian household. It's quite a lot. Some categories will be affected more than others like produce, because of the Canadian dollar, and nuts. We are expecting pork prices to go up, chicken as well. Not beef though. Beef prices are moving sideways.
What can consumers do to keep costs down in our food budgets?
Canadians are doing their homework. They are looking at fliers. They are using apps on their phones. They are more engaged. They are looking out for bargains. People in Ontario and Quebec are looking for bargains more than ever before, more than other provinces. For 2017, using coupons or e-coupons is not a bad idea.
What does Donald Trump have to do with the rising food prices in Canada?
Agriculture hires well over two million illegal workers. If he gets rid of them, someone else will have to harvest all the food grown by farmers. That is likely to make things more expensive in farming in America. The other factor is infrastructure spending. You may see demand for commodities go up. Lastly, trade agreements. If we are to see more protectionism everything we grow becomes more of an issue.
Does this mean that food that is locally grown will become an even better choice in 2017?
If you are a local food buyer this report is less likely to affect you. You are paying a premium. That premium is not factored into the report. The report refers to people buying food in regular grocery stores. The food inflation rate for local foods is not that high. It is expensive, but prices don't move all that much. It is good news for local farmers and local food lovers. What you spent on food in 2016 will likely be the same in 2017.