We were warned, and now we’re seeing it happen. Food prices in Canadian grocery stores are soaring, and the trend only looks set to continue.
Late in 2021, the annual Food Price Report predicted that Canadian food prices would likely increase by between five and seven per cent in 2022, which was the highest increase predicted in the 12-year history of the report.
That surge in prices was attributed to a number of factors including the myriad effects of COVID-19, serious supply chain constraints, and ongoing climate change.
However, that was even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine exacerbated the situation by wreaking havoc on crop farming and transportation.
On March 16, Statistics Canada reported that food prices rose 7.4 per cent in February compared with a year ago, the largest yearly increase since May 2009. That rise has come as the annual inflation rate climbed to 5.7 per cent, the highest it’s been in 30 years.
Dairy goods, which are already generally more costly than many other food items in Canada and were expected to rise in price more sharply than other foods in the Food Price Report, have indeed led the way.
According to the latest data from Statistics Canada, between February 2021 and February 2022, milk rose in price by 6.6 per cent and eggs by 7.2 per cent.
Meat prices soaring
However, those were far from the most remarkable rises in food prices witnessed over the time period.
Meat, most notably, has skyrocketed.
Beef store prices increased by a huge 16.1 per cent, around three times the rate of general inflation, followed by bacon at 16.1 per cent and chicken at 10.4 per cent. In the Food Price Report, it was predicted that meat prices would rise by around two per cent in 2022.
Fruit and vegetables, too, are becoming notably more costly.
The price of oranges has risen nearly 10 per cent, appes are up 5.3 per cent, and bananas are 3.7 per cent more expensive than February 2021.
Bread products are up by the same percentage as bananas, coffee is up 8.5 per cent, and potato chips and related snacks have increased in price by nearly six per cent.
Alcohol is not immune, either, although the rises have been less impactful, with store-bought beer (3.6 per cent), wine (2.1 per cent), and liquor (one per cent) all slightly up.
Given the startling nature of some of these rises, it is no wonder that restaurants are finding themselves faced with little option but to pass these increased prices onto their diners.
Worryingly, these figures do not even account for March, the month in which the effects of the Russian invasion of Ukraine have only just started to be felt.
Canadians cutting back
This all comes at a time when Canadians are increasingly looking for ways to cut back on spending as their concerns about the cost of living rise alongside inflation rates, according to research firm Leger.
Four-fifths of respondents to a Leger poll had started or planned to buy cheaper items at the grocery store to save on food bills, as well as cutting back on how much food they throw out to stretch every dollar. Meanwhile, three-quarters of respondents said they planned to cut spending on household items and eat from local restaurants less frequently.
Christian Bourque, Leger’s executive vice-president, said this even could have negative effects on public health if, as the poll suggests, Canadians ditch higher-priced fresh fruit and vegetables for less expensive options.