Meaty foodprice hikes expected


Manitobans heading to the meat market may soon be in for a bit of a shock, new data from the University of Dalhousie suggest.

The seventh edition of Canada’s Food Price Report, which gets its numbers from national spot checks, predicts meat prices will rise as much as nine per cent this year.

The national average rise from January to May was 11 per cent, but the meat price spike hasn’t yet hit Winnipeg as hard.

“There’s more competition, so food inflation hasn’t been as high in Winnipeg’s economy as in other places in the country,” said Sylvain Charlebois, the report’s lead author.

The prices of other products, such as seafood, dairy and cereals, are expected to rise as much as three per cent, and fruits and nuts may go up as high as five per cent, according to the report released Monday.

Overall, Canadians could pay an extra three per cent or four per cent on their 2017 grocery bill, the Nova Scotia-based researchers say.

Winnipeg Harvest hasn’t increased its daily food allotment — $3.96 per day — in 20 years, according to the non-profit organization’s calculations, and about 50 per cent of its clients use welfare.

Clients with disabilities and on pensions may also fall victim to unequal ratios. Canada’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) affects the amounts they receive, and the index’s figures contrast sharply with those in the Dalhousie report.

While the Dalhousie researchers estimate food prices to have risen more than five per cent from January to May, CPI numbers show a 1.1 per cent decrease from April 2016 to April 2017.

“I wasn’t surprised… Several hundreds of Canadians have expressed that they’re very skeptical about the CPI,” Charlebois said.

Different methodologies could account for the discrepancy. Statistics Canada has interviewers who track data points for food products that sell in the greatest volume, according to its website.

Charlebois and his team spot check 100 products randomly, so the two groups may be measuring different brands.

For right now, meat prices are about the same as they were last year in June, according to Munther Zeid, owner of Food Fare stores in Winnipeg. Zeid has seen the cost of summer favourites — T-bone, sirloin, rib steak — go up, but says this is normal for barbecue season. Suppliers tend to increase prices of a season’s popular cuts.

“It’s not the retailers doing it,” Zeid said.

When meat prices go up, Zeid doesn’t see his sales go down. Instead, people are shopping for better cuts.

“People today are going, ‘Meat’s high. If I’m going to pay that kind of price, I want the best,’ ” he said.

Lettuce: the new cauliflower?


Canada”s Food Price Report shows a spike in lettuce prices in April and May due to poor growing conditions in California. The U.S. state got a lot of rain last winter after experiencing severe drought conditions, leading to excess moisture and pests. Last year, a head of cauliflower cost as much as $10. Lettuce has yet to reach that price, but an increased demand and little supply could make it this summer”s expensive green.

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