Canada’s Food Price Report 2024 is forecasting another increase but it's not expected to be as bad as in other years.
According to the report the average family of four is expected to spend $16,297.20 on food in 2024, an increase of up to $701.79 from last year.
The report is a collaboration between researchers at Dalhousie University, the University of Guelph, the University of Saskatchewan, and the University of British Columbia.
Dr Sylvain Charlebois is the project lead, a professor, and Director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.
"We are expecting food prices to rise by anywhere between 2.5 to 4.5 per cent in 2024. The good news for 2024 is that we are expecting the food inflation rate to get closer to the sweet spot we want, which is 1.5 to 2.5 percent. So that's actually going to help consumers overall."
There are three categories - bakery, meat, and vegetables that are expected to drive prices up.
He points out that the increases over the next six months are mainly weather-related.
"Beef with the drought that really impacted inventories in the last eight, nine months of course. You have chocolate with cocoa production that has been impacted by unfavorable weather in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. And thirdly, sugar, sugar prices are actually going up as well, again, due to weather affecting sugarcane production. So climate is a big deal and we don't necessarily need all that much. We often talk about the weather right here in our own backyards, but we actually are part of a global food economy. Climate is affecting crops everywhere. It's not something that's new, but we do trade more with the rest of the world that we're exposed to more climactic risk."
In 2023, despite inflation, Canadians are spending less on food this year.
Data from retail food sales data shows consumers' monthly spending per capita between August 2022 and August 2023 went from $261.24 to $252.89.
The estimated annual spending for a family of four in the past year was $693 lower than originally projected.
He says that's a concern as it indicates consumers are reducing the quantity and quality of the food they are buying.
"They were actually leaving the grocery store with less food, leaving conventional retail stores with less food. So they went elsewhere to get food, unconventional grocery stores, for example. And they probably were wasting less. Today we're very careful because of real estate costs, mortgages, and rent. It was a very difficult year for Canadians in general."
Some other key factors impacting things in 2023, would be the strikes we saw at Sobeys, Metro Inc., British Columbia ports, the St. Lawrence Seaway, Rogers Sugar Refinery, and Windsor Salt.
Charlobois says these disputes resulted in product shortages and shipping delays.
He notes while prices are expected to increase, that increase is expected to be lower than in previous years.