Canada’s Food Price Report 2019 predicts an increase in food prices this year, in particular for vegetables.
Every year, Canada’s Dalhousie University and University of Guelph work together to estimate the cost of groceries. They say 2019 will see a 1.5%-to-3.5% price increase, in large part due to global warming.
Escalating vegetables prices
Vegetable prices increased 4% in 2018. The two universities estimate that they will rise another 4% to 6% in 2019. The reason for this is the likely return of El Niño. This phenomenon of unusually warm currents directly affects the weather, which in turn affects crops. While South America and some Asian countries are expected to see heavy rainfall, North America may face a water shortage. As a result, crops will be lost due to flooding or drought.
This likely price increase comes at a time when the new version of Canada’s Food Guide is strongly encouraging people to eat plant-based foods. Based on the Food Guide in effect when they prepared the report, the authors estimated that an average family wanting to follow the recommendations would have to spend $400 more than in 2018. With the new recommendations, their food budget would probably be even higher.
Possible fruit and vegetable subsidy for low-income Quebec families
To encourage low-income families to eat fruits and vegetables, the Institut national de santé publique du Québec or INSPQ [National public health institute of Quebec] is exploring the possibility of a subsidy. The measure being considered involves giving eligible families coupons or a prepaid card for fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. For now, the subsidy amount has been set at $0.62 per person per day. So, a family of four would receive a $17.36 coupon each week.
So far, the INSPQ has analyzed the feasibility and acceptability of such an approach. Six discussion groups with disadvantaged households were held in the Montreal and Quebec City regions. And according to the INSPQ’s February 2019 report, the targeted populations unanimously support the measure. Some participants pointed out that “there was a risk of stigma,” but believe the benefits outweigh this risk. As for feasibility, the INSPQ underlined the importance of introducing a simple measure that does not generate additional costs for merchants.
A pilot project for estimating the effects of such a measure is due to be launched in the near future.
The only price decreases expected in 2019 are for meat and seafood. The authors attribute this to inconsistent consumer demand, as well as a high inventory.
In any case, given that wages are hardly increasing, the overall increase in food costs will be a considerable burden on Canadian consumers.
Intervention pour augmenter la consommation de fruits et légumes: étude sur la faisabilité et l’acceptabilité de l’intervention [Measure to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables: Feasibility and acceptability study], INSPQ, January 2019