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Canadians can expect to see food prices increase by five to seven per cent in 2022, the highest increase in 12 years, according to the 12th edition of the Food Price Report.

The report is published annually by Dalhousie University and University of Guelph and last year the universities of Saskatchewan and British Columbia joined the research team.

"It's important for consumers to understand that food prices have been going up for some time, and there's no turning back," says Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, project lead and director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University. "Our relationship with food is changing, and so will our food budgets. Showing up at the grocery store knowing what you should be paying will help."

This report maintains the same approach as last year and shows predicted annual food expenditures by individual consumer based on their age and gender. This year the report has added two new consumer categories to the report: pregnant women and nursing women.

This year the team is predicting, for example, that a family of four, including a man (age 31-50), woman (age 31-50), boy (age 14-18), and girl (age 9-13) will have an annual food expenditure of up to $14,767, an increase of up to $966 from what was observed as the total annual cost in 2021.

What to expect in 2022

The report says increasing food insecurity and grocery retail theft will be prevalent in 2022.

“There will likely be more demand for and reliance on food programs or food banks if incomes do not rise to meet food expenditures and other basic needs. At the same time, organizations that provide aid to the food-insecure may have difficulty meeting increased demand and rising food expenditures while operating with stagnant funding and budgets.”

Food price increases in Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundlandand Labrador, Ontario, and Saskatchewan will likely be higher than the national average in 2022, while price increases in the remaining provinces will be lower. 

"Most Canadians could eat more vegetables," says Dr. Kelleen Wiseman, UBC campus lead. "The forecasted increase in this healthy food category is worrying from a public health perspective because consumers might be tempted to further reduce their consumption of fresh and mainstream vegetables. However, options are available in selecting alternative vegetables or frozen vegetables — which can provide high nutritional value at a lower price point."

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On grocery retail theft, the researchers describe it as a “growing phenomenon related to increasing food insecurity” and anticipate this will intensify in the coming year.

“Grocers are anecdotally reporting an uptick in theft, particularly of items such as meat, cheese, over-the-counter medication and energy drinks. Unreported loss to theft could be as high as $3000 to $4000 each week in some Canadian grocery stores.”

Consumers and industry will continue to feel the effect of COVID-19, but to what extent is still uncertain as many Canadians are now fully vaccinated and we are gradually regaining a sense of normalcy. But with Canadians grappling with rising prices, “food programs may face increased demand along with higher costs for food, and food retailers may see increased rates of theft. We will continue to feel the growing impact of climate change and the continued effect of both transportation and labour market challenges.”

Visit the Agri-Food Analytics Lab of Dalhousie University to read the full report.

https://www.dal.ca/sites/agri-food.html

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