There is a significant increase in the food inflation rate across Canada as the global COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the food industry. On Sunday, Sylvain Charlebois, a senior director of Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, reported that prices were going up. Sylvain also added that the general inflation rate is barely at zero, while the food inflation rate is almost at three per cent with the latest report coming out of StatsCan this week.
What has impacted how every industry functions are the COVID-19 precautions and other regulations introduced to safeguard Canadians from the spread of COVID-19. Charlebois also stated that what is catching up to consumers is everything costing more to do in the food industry, from cleaning to producing to distribution. He noted that it had impacted various categories of food production at different times during the pandemic.
Consumers were shocked in June by a surge in beef price. This increase in grocers was reported to be due to a COVID-19 outbreak at one of the country’s largest meatpackers, disrupting the supply chain. Charlebois also noted that no food category is immune to the impacts of the pandemic. He added that meat prices went up at the very beginning. However, now people are beginning to see food inflation affect other categories like produce.
There could also be a significant price bump in food imported from overseas during a global pandemic. In early June, Carmine Caccioppoli, owner of a grocery store in Kitchener, Ont. that specializes in Italian-Canadian food, reported that they had seen that price increase firsthand for international foods. Due to the rise in transportation costs and the low Canadian dollar, a re-stock of Burrata cheese at their store had to come with a 25% markup. He stated that in July, they, as a frontline retailer, were the ones who had to tell their customers prices went up. He concluded that since everyone is suffering during the COVID-19, it was not always an easy thing to do.
Allegations of unsafe working conditions, and vegetable and produce farms operating in Ontario being under scrutiny for outbreaks at their facilities recently are the issues that have ripple effects for prices is the safety of workers.
While pointing out that chicken is cheaper than last year and that “pork is pretty stable,” Charlebois stated that there are still some “good deals,” to be found on the shelves in Canadian stores. According to Charlebois, one way of procuring food that has seen a huge increase during the pandemic is ordering groceries online. He added that there is payment of five to seven per cent more for those who are buying their groceries online, on average.
He also said people are paying for the convenience. Thus, there is the delivery fee, on average, four dollars, but it is sporadic that people can find deals online as they will charge people premium for everything they buy. He added that it is not a choice on whether or not to go to the store in person that everyone can make during a pandemic. Charlebois said people could be anywhere in the country and expect their food to be delivered within two hours, in most places. He confirmed that it is likely that the volume of sales online to almost triple in 2020, compared to last year because e-commerce is exploding.