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According to the 12th annual edition of Canada's Food Price Report by researchers at Dalhousie University, University of Guelph, University of Saskatchewan and the University of British Columbia, Canadians will spend more on food this year.
The full effect of lingering pandemic-related food supply chain disruptions, high inflation, labour and transportation issues, climate change and extreme weather events on next year's grocery bills remains to be seen. But according to Canada's Food Price Report 2022 , they will only get higher.

In the latest edition of the annual report, Dalhousie University, University of Guelph, University of Saskatchewan and University of British Columbia researchers forecast a five to seven per cent increase in food prices — the highest in its 12-year history.

Five things to know about rising food prices in 2022

A family of four is expected to spend as much as $14,767 in 2022: up to $966 more than 2021, which amounts to an extra $80 a month and $20 a week.

"2022 will likely be a very difficult year for most Canadian families, unfortunately, because prices are going to rise significantly," says Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, director of Dalhousie University's Agri-Food Analytics Lab (AAL) and lead author of the report. "Canadians will have to accept the fact that they are going to have to dedicate a greater portion of their overall budget to food."

Dr. Kelleen Wiseman, academic director and manager of UBC's Master of Food and Resource Economics and one of the report's authors, notes that grocery prices are increasing alongside those for other items, such as rent and gasoline: "In the context of overall inflation, these prices will not be out of line."

The report references Canada's ranking in the Global Food Security Index , which dropped from 18th in 2019 to 24th in 2021. "Part of that is an inflation issue," says Dr. Simon Somogyi, Arrell Chair in the business of food at the University of Guelph and one of the report's authors.

"Wages and salaries really haven't kept pace. We're running at 4.7 per cent inflation . I know my salary didn't go up by 4.7 per cent, and very few people in the community would have. So we're in a very difficult time where we're not earning more to cover the increased costs of living."

At six to eight per cent, the report forecasts the largest increases in restaurants — due to continued labour market challenges, higher rents and rising food prices — and dairy.

Pre-pandemic, Canadians spent 35 per cent of their food budget at restaurants, according to the report. As of November, that number had bounced back to 27 per cent. Recognizing that people want to support their local restaurants, one way to save money next year, suggests Somogyi, is to order takeout and dine out less often.

Comment: Which will be another blow to small and medium business after nearly 20 months of lockdowns, and, if they go out of business, the economy will suffer even more.

"(Restaurants) have seen significant issues with getting workers ," he says. "They've had to offer higher wages, greater benefits, which are good things. But those costs then get passed on to the consumers in higher menu prices."

The dairy price forecasts follow the Canadian Dairy Commission's (CDC's) recent announcement of an unprecedented 8.4 per cent farm-gate increase on milk and 12.4 per cent on butter.

Given the long supply chain, it's difficult to know how this change will translate to the tub of yogurt or jug of kefir in the dairy section, says Wiseman. But given that processors and retailers are also dealing with increased costs, the researchers expect higher prices.

Lactalis, one of Canada's largest dairy companies, notified grocers it will raise prices by up to 15 per cent in 2022 . Dr. Stuart Smyth, chair of agri-food innovation and sustainability enhancement at the University of Saskatchewan and one of the report's authors, suspects dairy price forecasts may end up being higher than anticipated.

Comment: Prices will likely spike above even their greaters expectations, because most of these experts have never seen a situation like that which much of our planet is facing, nor are most of them informed about the various issues looming, and it's unlikely that they're expecting governments to sabotage their economies even more than they already have,

"To me, that's probably the most concerning because it impacts the low-income households the greatest," says Smyth. "Households may be inclined to reduce their milk and dairy purchases, which have lifelong impacts on children that don't get proper calcium and other nutrients from dairy as infants and until they reach adulthood."

As dairy prices increase, the gap between conventional products and alternatives — whether oat, soy or new kid on the block, potato milk — narrows, highlights Charlebois, who anticipates "going hybrid" with protein will become increasingly popular.

Comment: And with it, people's health will suffer significantly, because a diet with ample meat and animal fats are key to optimal health. This, at a time when the health of great numbers of people are already compromised from experimental jabs, endless government fomented hysteria, uncertainty, and the stress that causes, in addition to lockdowns blocking the usual circulation of viruses and the deleterious consequences that will have.

Although, unsurpsingly, the chemical, synthesised 'meat', and insect diet pushers at the World Economic Forum will be pleased.

Somogyi agrees that cost may inspire more Canadians to try alternatives: "The CDC has taken the view that the price increase is warranted very much based on the costs that the dairy farms have incurred. But we all need to realize that consumers can only pay so much."

The report also predicts large price increases in bakery and vegetables (five to seven per cent) due to severe weather in 2021: drought and unprecedented high temperatures in Western Canada, which withered grain production ; wildfires and flooding in B.C.; winter storms and cold fronts.

"We saw this year that climate was a big story affecting grains and produce in some parts of our country, especially in the west," says Charlebois. "We are expecting the same in 2022 again."

In addition to ongoing flood recovery in B.C., a La Niña weather pattern is moving in, notes Somogyi. Key produce suppliers in Arizona and California will likely have a drier and warmer winter, which has the potential to increase the price of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Meat, however, is among the categories forecasted to increase the least, at zero to two per cent. With 2021's price hike (9.9 per cent in October ) — a.k.a. " meatflation " — "I think we all deserve it," says Charlebois.

Last year's increase was due, in part, to rising feed costs for farmers in the face of drought-shrivelled wheat crops throughout Western Canada and other parts of the world, including Brazil and Russia.

Part of the reason meat prices are forecasted to stay relatively static in 2022, says Smyth, is because of a flooded market. Ranchers across the prairies were forced to sell livestock as pastures dried up and feed costs increased: "The auction barns have certainly seen an increase in the number of heads moving through."

Comment: These ranchers and farmers likely made a loss due to the flooded market and it's unlikely they'll invest in equal amounts or more next year, meaning that soaring meat prices are, temporarily, delayed.

Consumers should expect variation within food categories, notes Wiseman. In the meat category, for example, rib roast may increase significantly; ground beef not as much. The impact of the recent loss of livestock in B.C. — 640,000 animals and counting — is to be determined, she adds.

Dairy, poultry and eggs are supply managed nationally — which aims to balance production with demand — so product may flow from non-flood areas across the country. Pork is outside the supply management system, however; the repercussions of the hog death toll — which reached roughly 12,000 — is yet unknown, but Wiseman expects any concerns to be short-term.

Changing form or type is one way to save money on food, says Wiseman: buying frozen meat or produce instead of fresh, for example; and exploring different types of products, such as less expensive cabbage or kale over cauliflower.

Smyth predicts that shoppers will move away from niche products, such as those labelled organic, natural or non-GMO, in 2022: "Conventional products are equally as safe and just as nutritious and, in a lot of cases, at a minimum of a third of the price."

Food literacy can also help lessen the blow of higher food prices, says Charlebois. According to a February AAL report , Canadians are more food literate now than before the pandemic, which can help make the most of limited budgets.

"Even though food prices are going up, it doesn't mean that you have to spend more on food. You can actually spend less on food," says Charlebois. "With more food literacy, you have more options in the grocery store."