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Canada: Higher food prices expected in 2017

Canadians can expect to pay 3-5 per cent more for food in 2017, an increase of as much as $420 for an average family.

That’s the conclusion of the seventh edition of Canada’s Food Price Report, published for the first time this year at Dalhousie.

Built on the expertise of authors and advisors from four different Dal faculties — Management, Computer Science, Science and Agriculture — the Food Price Report is led by Sylvain Charlebois, dean of the Faculty of Management. The popular annual report forecasts food prices for the upcoming year across different sectors and analyzes trends in Canada’s food industries.

“Food pricing affects all Canadians,” says Dr. Charlebois, who previously led the project out of the University of Guelph. “It affects our quality of life. It’s top of mind for everyone every single day when we go out to buy food, whether at a restaurant or at a grocery store. And many Canadians struggle to cope with fluctuating food prices.”

Higher increases for 2017
So what does 2017 hold for food prices?

“Unfortunately, it’s not great news for families with less means,” says Dr. Charlebois.

An increase of 3-5 per cent in food prices would be considerably higher than the rate of inflation (typically 1-2 per cent), and larger than 2016 (about 2.5 per cent). While dairy/eggs and bakery/cereal are expected to remain stable and within acceptable inflation rates, other foods could see much higher increases: fruits and nuts by 3-5 per cent; vegetables, meats and other food items by upwards of 4-6 per cent.

“The biggest factor will be the falling Canadian dollar,” explains Dr. Charlebois. “Given how many food products we import from abroad, our food economy is vulnerable to currency fluctuations.”

Other drivers that inform the report’s projections include La Nina weather patterns and the incoming Trump administration in the U.S. — which, while rife with uncertainty, suggests a forthcoming period of American protectionism that could initiate a “commodity super-cycle,” raising food prices for Canadians.

Previous editions of the report have generated significant national media attention, and this year’s is expected to be no different.

“We are dealing with a more engaged marketplace than ever before,” says Dr. Charlebois. “People want to engage with the food supply chain, and examining price is one to do it.”

“And it’s also that the report is not just about price: it’s about the future of food. It’s about the quality of the food we eat, it’s about food cultures; it’s a multidimensional report around food.”

The report also considers possible trends in food and food policy for the year ahead. For 2017, its authors discuss celebration of Canadian food (in honour of Canada’s 150th), food science fears and food fraud awareness.

Source: Dalhousie University
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