When it comes to food prices, winter can be expensive for Canadians.
Inflation in Canada reached 4.7% in October, the fastest rise in nearly 19 years. Food inflation was 3.8% that month, but grocery store Canadians could be shocked by another sticker as Canada and the United States end the growing season for many types of fresh food.
Food inflation is notorious for its instability. For example, prices can fluctuate significantly up and down depending on the weather.
Michael von Massow, a food economist at the University of Guelph, said it’s not uncommon for product prices to rise by more than 10 percent in winter just because they were imported from afar.
However, supply chains that snarl engulfing world trade make it difficult to supply Canada with off-season fruits and vegetables.
Take the blueberries. 10 to 12 days are usually taken by shipments from Peru to arrive in Toronto, said Larry Davidson, CEO of North American Produce Buyers, an international buyer, and wholesaler based in Ontario.
But today, it can take 20-25 days for the berry container to reach its destination, says Davidson.
“As the recipient, we might get the distressed product,” he says.
Davidson speaks of everything from shortages of containers to backup ports, shortages of workers loading and unloading ships, to longer than usual waiting times for trucks to pick up goods.
One solution is to use fresh, perishable produce, but that requires a premium to the price, says von Massow.
High energy prices are also putting upward pressure on food prices, he said. He said this is especially true for products imported from the United States and other regions that require long-distance shipping.
“Climate change is a supply chain problem. Production disruptions can have a lasting effect on the supply and price of the product,” explains von Massow.
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