New Brunswick

New Brunswick may be worst off in Canada when it comes to rising food prices

According to researchers at Dalhousie University, the Atlantic provinces are experiencing significant increases in food costs that are outstripping the rest of Canada, and New Brunswick may be the worst off.

Atlantic provinces experiencing significant increases in food costs that are outstripping the rest of Canada

Syvain Charlebois said one cause of high food costs in New Brunswick is, "our food comes from far away and logistical costs are really a problem." (Shane Ross/CBC)

According to researchers at Dalhousie University, the Atlantic provinces are experiencing significant increases in food costs that are outstripping the rest of Canada, and New Brunswick may be the worst off.

Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at Dalhousie University and director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab, looked at numbers from Statistics Canada and found that over the past 20 years, the cost of food has risen faster than the cost of products and services that make up the consumer price index.

And nowhere more so than in New Brunswick.

Charlebois said the problem is New Brunswick's "food comes from far away and logistical costs are really a problem."

Food distribution and policy expert Sylvain Charlebois says little to no processing of food is happening in New Brunswick. 'And without processing, you don't control the supply chain," he said. (David Laughlin/CBC)

Another issue, according to Charlebois, is that there is little to no processing of food happening in New Brunswick.

"Without processing, you don't control the supply chain," he said.

"So you are likely very vulnerable to factors you don't control like the currency and energy costs and things like that."

New Brunswickers react to increases in food costs

1 year ago
1:23
Some Saint John shoppers say they've adjusted to changes in price, often by cutting certain foods from their grocery lists. 1:23

He said more processing means more control of the province's food and its costs.

Months ago, when the pandemic first changed people's daily lives by limiting outings and supply chains, gaps in food security came into focus.

Charlebois said it seems the government took notice and started working with his lab on ways to extend the growing season, in an effort to make local food available year-round.

"Which is really critical," said Charlebois.

"And it's not just about potatoes, it's about celery, lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, everything which is important for New Brunswickers diets," he said.

While the pandemic has caused food prices to rise, "really the food inflation rate has been a challenge for most Canadians for many, many years now."

Sean Fillmore is the owner/operator of On the Vine meat and produce in Saint John. He said customers are 'loyal to their wallets' and will follow the lowest prices. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

In Saint John at On the Vine Meat and Produce, owner Sean Fillmore said that as prices crept up over the years, he's noticed people being more careful about what they're paying for food.

"They're loyal to their wallets."

But it's understandable," Fillmore said.

"It's getting harder to put supper on the table so they shop around."

And his customers agree.

Mireille Savoie said she's noticed more of her monthly budget goes toward food. 'The price is sky high and it's so hard to try to eat healthy,' she said. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

Mireille Savoie said she's had to change the way she eats to accommodate her growing food budget. She cut down on meat because she couldn't afford it.

"The price is sky high and it's so hard to try to eat healthy," said Savoie.

When she couldn't cut back anymore, she put in a garden.

"I do intend in the winter to try to grow a little something inside."

David Eagles said he's worked across the country and agrees that food is more expensive in New Brunswick. (Graham Thompson/CBC)

David Eagles has taken to strict budgeting and using apps to find the best prices for food. 

"So if it means I'm spending an extra four or five bucks on gas, I will go to four or five different stores to meet my budget every week," he said.

Eagles said he was a cook in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where he was able to compare prices.

"You could get a six-litre jug of milk for three bucks and you're paying six bucks for four litres here," said Eagles.  

"The price of living when it comes to the food is absolutely astronomical."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tori Weldon

Reporter

Tori Weldon is a reporter based in Moncton. She's been working for the CBC since 2008.

With files from Harry Forestell and Graham Thompson

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