Spiking food prices leave Quebec shoppers, grocers struggling

The prices of some products are so high that even grocers are shocked.

Price of meats, fruits and vegetables rising higher than inflation rate

The prices of fruit and vegetables are rising quickly because of a low Canadian dollar, according to a study from the University of Guelph Food Institute. (CBC)

Quebecers are paying more for a bag of groceries these days and the prices of some products are so high that even grocers are shocked.

"It's crazy. It's 30 years I'm in the business. I've never seen prices like that," said Javed Iqbal Sheik, the owner of a grocery store in the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough called Fruiterie Mile-End.

Iqbal Sheik said he normally sells a head of cauliflower for less than $2. Now, it costs $6 and last week the price was $8.

"It's 30 years I’m in the business. I’ve never seen prices like that,” says Montreal grocery store owner Javed Iqbal Sheik. (CBC)
"So it's four times the price. It's four times the price," said Iqbal Sheik.

"Iceberg lettuce is $70 a box. Usually it's $28 a box...There are people willing to pay but the majority, no. They say, 'Forget it.'"

Shopper George Seferiadis said he is having to adjust.

"I think I'm cutting also from other things. I'm not spending on technology," he said.

"My phone is a bit old and I don't want to change it yet."

Trend to continue, study finds

A study last week out of the University of Guelph blames the low Canadian dollar and the drought in California, which is where much of the food on Quebec shelves comes from.

A research team led by Sylvain Charlebois of the University of Guelph Food Institute forecasts that food inflation rates will be two to four per cent in 2016, much higher than the overall inflation rate as measured by Statistics Canada's consumer price index.That's after a year in which the cost of meat, vegetables, fruit and nuts jumped more than anticipated, pushing up your food bill by 4.1 per cent in 2015.

Charlebois says the average Canadian household will spend $8,631 on food in 2016, an increase of about $345.

Food price inflation

Expected 2016 price increase by category:

  • Meats: 2.5% to 4.5%
  • Fish and seafood: 1% to 3%
  • Dairy and eggs: 0% to 2%
  • Grains: 0.2%
  • Fruits and nuts: 2.5% to 4.5%
  • Vegetables: 2% to 4%
  • Overall food costs: 2% to 4%

At Sun Youth, a non-profit organization in Montreal that helps the needy, officials said they notice the rising food prices taking a toll on people's household income.

"It's $350 at the end of the year. It's going to cost more for basic products, and we're not talking about luxury products. I'm talking minced meat, bread, milk — products that are used every day," said Tommy Kulczyk, Sun Youth's director of emergency services.

Kulcyk said that when people have to cut back their spending, they usually cut back on food.

The University of Guelph study said Canadians can expect food prices to continue to rise.