By Laura Keil

A new report says food prices will continue to rise in 2024, but less than they did last year.

This is certainly not the kind of news that people rave about or that buys votes, but it is a positive sign both for our food bills and for the outlook on inflation. Last year, BC grocery shoppers spent an average of 5 per cent more than the previous year or about $1000 more for a family of four. Next year, it’s projected that Canadians will spend only 2.5-4.5 per cent more, which should be in line with inflation. The average family of four is expected to spend $16,297 on food in 2024, up about $702 from 2023.

Since 2021, the cost of food has risen far beyond the Consumer Price Index in Canada, the indicator for inflation. Researchers have pointed to climate change (droughts), the War on Ukraine, and ongoing COVID-19 supply chain disruptions as all playing a role. But with COVID-19 disruptions largely behind us, and the droughts and war affecting only certain food ingredients, what’s with the prices going up across the board?

Trying to investigate the root causes of food inflation is not straightforward or quick. Statistics Canada wrote a number of articles in 2021 and 2022 about the issue, but not much since then, and in the past year, prices have risen significantly. In addition to that, some food production prices have dropped, as Statistics Canada reported this fall. The same report showed transportation prices and wholesale prices were down 1 to 3 per cent.

I’m hopeful food retailers will work hard to give us the best deals they can. Certainly some prices are out of their hands, but things appear to be turning around.

Canadian grocers are literally responsible for feeding the nation. It is a big responsibility and a privilege and I thank them for their efforts at keeping prices as low as they can.