Thanksgiving dinner will come with a hefty price tag for Canadians this year, according to data compiled by Dalhousie University’s Agri-Food Analytics Lab.
Sylvain Charlebois, who teaches food policy at the university and directs the lab, explains prices for some Thanksgiving dinner staples have increased by as much as 26 per cent compared to March 2020 and 22 per cent compared to this time last year. Statistics Canada reported on Sept. 20 that across all retail food items, inflation is up 10.8 per cent.
“People are getting less for their money to feed themselves at Thanksgiving. A lot of people are struggling out there,” Charlebois told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview Monday. He added that seven per cent of people surveyed by the lab earlier in September admitted to skipping meals due to higher food prices.
“There’s more pressure on families than ever,” he said.
Turkey, a mainstay of Thanksgiving dinners in Canada, has increased in per-kilogram price by an average of 15 per cent compared to last year and 22 per cent compared to March 2020, according to the new data.
Potatoes are 22 per cent more expensive compared to last year, and 26 per cent more expensive compared to March 2020.
Frozen corn is up six per cent from last year, but only one per cent compared to March 2020.
The price of bread has increased by 13 per cent compared to last year, and 21 per cent compared to 2020.
Turnips are only two per cent more expensive this year than last year, but 26 per cent more expensive compared to March 2020.
The cost of bacon, a Thanksgiving staple in Charlebois’ home, is up two per cent compared to 2021, and 25 per cent compared to March 2020.
Cranberries are 12 per cent more expensive compared to last year, and 14 per cent more expensive compared to 2020, and the price of butter is up 13 per cent compared to last year and 25 per cent compared to March 2020.
People looking to offset rising food prices by shopping deals are in for disappointment too, Charlebois said.
“Discounts are about 10 per cent lower (in value) than what we were seeing just about a year ago,” Charlebois said. “And there are fewer discounts out there available to consumers.”
A ‘GLOBAL PHENOMENON’
Canadians aren’t alone in their struggles to pay for food, Charlebois said, with a handful of global factors driving up prices in countries like France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Australia, Japan and the United States.
“Generally speaking, we need to recognize this is a global phenomenon,” Charlebois said. “Within the G7, Canada has the third-lowest food inflation rate right now. Only Japan and France have a lower inflation rate.”
In Germany, he said, the rate of food inflation has reached 16.6 per cent.
One of the main drivers of global food inflation, Charlebois said, is still supply chain disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and complicated by labour shortages.
“Supply chain challenges have been lingering for quite some time,” he said. “They’re still there and that has made things more costly for everyone.”
The other main factor is Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, which has driven up commodity prices. Commodities are raw materials countries trade for use in manufacturing and production. They include everything from precious metals to energy to agricultural goods like wheat.
“Prices have actually started to drop since the peak on May 17, but we are expecting them to increase over the next little while because of a weaker-than-predicted harvest.”
Then there’s the very Canadian issue of the loonie’s buying power compared to the U.S. dollar. As of Sept. 26, the loonie was worth 73 cents for every U.S. dollar, which could spell trouble for grocers as autumn gives way to winter.
“We import a lot of food from abroad during the winter and a lot of our grocers are negotiating prices now, so with a weaker dollar their buying power is going to drop,” Charlebois said. “The Canadian dollar is weakening by the day as we go into the fall, and that’s going to be a problem.”
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