Grocery Prices

Grocery retailers may be forced to increase produce prices in 2016. (CBC)

People living on low incomes are feeling the pinch of high food prices for fresh fruit, vegetables and poultry, and the situation is expected to worsen this year.

The dropping dollar, which one investment bank predicts is heading for 59 cents US, is expected to leave shoppers with higher grocery bills.

Nearly all fruit and vegetables consumed in Canada are imported, making them more susceptible to the loonie's fluctuations.

Rick Hutchins, acting manager of the New Brunswick Food Security Action Network, says increases in food prices are a great concern for people living on fixed budgets.

"If you do not have enough money to pay for your food something else goes, so it's sort of a vicious cycle in that way," Hutchins said in an interview on Information Morning Saint John.

"A lot of seniors, in particular, that are on low incomes will make the choices and move away from some of those things to less expensive foods, which aren't necessarily as good for you."

Buy local

Hutchins says the sharp rise in prices at conventional stores could be good incentive for shoppers to buy more locally grown food.

He acknowledges New Brunswick doesn't have a large local supply at grocery stores, but says local food initiatives have risen in popularity.

"We see at farmers markets, we see a lot of local produce coming into play, there's hope at the end of it," said Hutchins.

"Globalization right now is going to be the biggest challenge to see if we can catch up and make those changes."

Last year, fruits and veggies jumped in price between 9.1 and 10.1 per cent, according to an annual report by the Food Institute at the University of Guelph.

The study predicts these foods will continue to increase above inflation this year, by up to 4.5 per cent for some items.

The food institute estimates the average Canadian household spent an additional $325 on food this year. On top of that, consumers should expect an additional annual increase of about $345 in 2016.

Meat prices, which rose five per cent last year, are expected to increase up to another 4.5 per cent in 2016; fish and seafood could rise by up to three per cent; and dairy, eggs and grains could see a two per cent increase.