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Changing Plate Prices

 Canada’s Food Price Report, a collaboration between the University of Guelph and Dalhousie University finds that the sweet spot for food inflation is anywhere between 1% and 2% each year.   

The authors of the report, including Simon Somogyi, suggest that there are three main scales to explore when looking at changes in food prices. These scales include the domestic level where consumer income and debt are considered, the sectoral level where policies, processing innovation, and retail distribution can have an impact, and lastly the macro level where we see factors such as climate change, international trade agreements and input costs influencing the price of our food. Going back to 2017, we witnessed the shift between an El Nino to a La Nina having significant macro-level impacts. Regions that many Canadians rely on for food production, such as California and Mexico suffered from extreme weather events.

In 2018, Canada’s Food Price Report found that food prices in Canada rose by 1.8%, which equated to an increase of $348 in food expenditure for a family of 4 in that year. This increase in food costs is not experienced the same by all Canadians and is not equal across all food groups. For example, fish and seafood prices increased by 5.6%, while breads and cereals prices decreased by 0.5% in 2018, compared to the previous year. 

Food prices for 2019 were projected to increase slightly more than we saw in 2018, which is likely having a greater impact on Canadian’s grocery bills. Food trends and dietary shifts can also play a role in food prices as meat and seafood prices are expected to decrease compared to the previous year, which is a trend that has not been observed in Canada since the inception of the Food Price Report in 2010.