Canadians Will Pay More for Food Next Year Thanks to Climate Change

Your restaurant and grocery bills are going to be four percent more expensive, says food expert.
December 4, 2019, 5:31pm
Climate change big factor in food price increases in canada

Expect to pay $141 more for groceries, restaurants, take-out next year according to a food expert who cites climate change as one of the main factors.

The average single person in Canada is forecast to spend $3,692.50 on food in 2020, which is about four percent more than last year. That’s according to a report released Wednesday by the University of Guelph and Dalhousie University.

Researcher Simon Somogyi told VICE that climate change is behind higher prices for food we buy that is imported and grown outdoors, including avocados, citrus fruits and bananas. Unexpected snowstorms, droughts, extreme weather events—which are happening more frequently—as well as rising temperatures, impact crops and livestock. Nearly 30 percent of food that Canadians buy is from outside the country and most of it is shipped in from the U.S. and Mexico.

This past year, E. Coli outbreaks in Canada and the U.S. led to recalls on romaine lettuce. Somogyi said this type of thing drives the price of produce higher, and is likely to happen more often because of climate change. “As the world gets hotter, then the prevalence of disease gets greater, and the incidence gets greater as well,” he said.

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The 2020 food price forecast of an increase of two to four percent is “very conservative” according to Somogyi—it’s likely to be on the high end of that prediction. By category, meat prices expect the biggest spike, jumping by as much as six percent. Restaurant food, vegetables, and seafood could cost as much as four percent more. Dairy (two percent), fruits (3.5 percent), and baked goods (two percent) aren’t forecast to see huge price changes.

These expected increases are more than inflation, which has been steady. According to Statistics Canada, the consumer price index—which measures the price increases of services and goods that people buy—rose 1.9 percent year-over-year in October. That’s the same as it was the previous two months.

The 2020 prediction is the biggest forecast price hike since 2013, when beef prices skyrocketed by 25 percent in a few months. Somogyi said that was related to climate change as well because a drought took a toll on the animals and made their food more expensive for farmers.

Eating locally-sourced food as much as possible is one way to keep costs down, but that’s not easy in many parts of Canada. Choosing meat alternatives over more expensive animal protein, as well as cooking your own food to avoid higher prices on prepared foods can also help your bank account.

Somogyi said Canadian prices are uniquely impacted by climate change because there are so many foods that we can’t grow locally. Although American farmers growing produce outside (as opposed to in a greenhouse) are also affected by climate change, they produce a lot more of the food they consume. Plus, Canada is more geographically vast which means that imported food has a longer distance to travel.

A big wild card is what happens politically in the U.S. next year. Around 60 percent of the food we buy in stores comes from America.

“If U.S. President Donald Trump’s election campaign focuses heavily on Mexico border protection, this may result in even more costly fruit and vegetables for Canadians,” Somogyi said. “We get a large amount of our [produce] from the U.S. and Mexico, and delays at the border crossing can lead to empty grocery store shelves.”

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