New Brunswick

Food inflation may not hit N.B. as hard as the rest of the country

A new report released by the Agri-food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University shows that the country can expect to see an estimated five to seven per cent increase in overall food prices next year.

New report predicts food prices will rise by 5-7 per cent

Food prices are expected to rise between five and seven per cent in 2022, according to the latest Food Price Report. (CBC)

A new report released by the Agri-food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University shows that the country can expect to see an estimated five to seven per cent increase in overall food prices in Canada next year.

It would be the highest increase in both percentage and dollars in 12 years.

New Brunswick is estimated to see increases less than the national average. But Sylvain Charlebois, the lead author of the report. said families can still be left behind.

"There's nothing wrong with food inflation — of course you want food prices to go up so the industry can continue to offer Canadians high quality, safe products — but wages aren't necessarily moving as fast," said Charlebois on Information Morning Fredericton. 

"When you see an inflation rate above four or five per cent, it doesn't really allow Canadians to breathe and adjust their budgets."

A trip to the grocery store is getting more expensive.​ ​Sylvain Charlebois ​is the lead author of Canada's Food Price report​. He ​​tells us what he found, and what we should expect in 2022.

Building on 2021 and earlier trends

The report states a typical grocery bill rose by 70 per cent between 2000 and 2020. 

In 2021, the general inflation rate was the highest since the early 2000s, driven by high oil prices, labour shortages, high housing costs, the COVID-19 pandemic and natural disasters such as drought and wildfires, according to the report. 

Because the pandemic isn't over and climate change issues are predicted to worsen, food prices are expected to continue to increase throughout next year. 

"Programs may face increased demand along with higher costs for food, and food retailers may see increased rates of theft," reads the report.

Charlebois says an immediate impact continues to be supply chain issues.

Sylvain Charlebois is the senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax. (Submitted by Sylvain Charlebois)

"What people need to understand is that if it takes longer to get products to market, it will end up costing more, whether it's on water or on land," said Charlebois. "This is something that people are noticing."

On the hunt for discounts and bargains

Charlebois says grocers are tuning into the demand for cheaper food and are trying to cut down on waste at the same time.

"The one thing we're noticing more now, is that grocers are actually empowering consumers to buy products that are about to expire, or products that were counter-packaged a few days ago" said Charlebois. 

"The 'Enjoy tonight' deals for example, there are more and more of them. In fact, food banks across the country have actually reported it's more difficult to actually get food because grocers aren't wasting as much."

A survey conducted by the Agri-food Analytics Lab in the fall of this year found that 46.5 per cent of New Brunswick residents — the highest percentage out of all provinces — bought discounted food products with best before or expiry dates within a few days of purchase to cut down on their grocery bill.

Lakewood Headstart food bank volunteers have noted the increase in price for things like canned ham and canned milk. Eldene Mannett said they're lucky donations have been keeping them afloat this year, or fulfilling orders would have been difficult.

Lakewood Headstart is a non-profit organization providing food and clothing to those in need in the outlying communities east of Saint John. (Lakewood Headstart/Facebook)

"Things have tripled in price.  A lot of it we used to pay 99 cents for — canned flakes of ham — it's now like $2.69, $2.99, and $3.69 at some stores," said Mannett to Information Morning Saint John. "We'd like to give like one can per family at least a month, so [we're] giving out three or four cases a month." 

"We've been fairly lucky in donations that we can afford to go and do that." 

Alyson Garnett and Eldene Mannett,are from Lakewood Headstart on St. Martins Road and Sylvain Charlebois is a Canadian researcher and professor in food distribution and food policy at Dalhousie University.

The food bank currently has 97 families registered, and are fulfilling 68 orders for Christmas packages. This year, volunteers have had trouble finding turkeys for their Christmas packages, and they suspect it might be due to food chain supplies.

"We're giving them gift certificates for turkeys this year because we aren't able to get it," said Mannett. 

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