Annual report shows food prices will rise, but less than they did in 2023

Edana Robitaille
Published: December 27, 2023

Canadians and newcomers can expect to pay more for food in 2024.

Researchers from Dalhousie University, the University of Guelph, the University of Saskatchewan, and the University of British Columbia say that the average family of four in Canada will pay $16,297.20 for food in 2024, which is an increase of up to $701.79 from last year. It forecasts that the most significant increases range from 5% to 7% in bakery, meat, and vegetables.

The Canada Food Price Report for 2024 was released on December 7 and shows that political, environmental, and economic instability, both in Canada and globally, has had an impact on energy and commodity prices.

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Despite the expected increase, the overall outlook is better than it was in the 2023 report. That report expected the overall price of food to rise 5% to 7% and the expectation for 2024 is that overall food prices will increase by 2.5% to 4.5%.

The report further notes that the average amount spent on food is likely to decrease in Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

The report also found that contrary to rising prices people in Canada spend less on groceries on average than they did throughout 2022. It notes that this has caused some concern among researchers because it means that people living in Canada are either eating less or buying lower-quality food.

Competition act

In response to rising prices, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland introduced the Affordable Housing and Groceries Act earlier this year.

One of the main pillars of the Act is to change the competition laws to incentivize major grocery chains to lower prices.

It gives the Competition Bureau more power to investigate allegations of unfairness or price fixing and take enforcement action.

The Bureau will also be able to block company collaborations or mergers that discourage competition and limit consumer choice.

According to the Toronto Star, former head of Loblaws Company Ltd, Galen Weston, has said that high food prices are not due to lack of competition or price fixing at a company level. Weston said that high prices in grocery stores are the result of inflated prices from suppliers.

The Food Price Report explains that there is some truth to this. It says the rise in prices is heavily influenced by climate change and the negative effects on harvests, such as flooding and wildfires. It also says global events such as the current situation in Ukraine and the Middle East are contributing to increases.

These events can pose challenges for grocery stores as demand increases and suppliers are more likely to raise prices due to limited supply.

Still, Loblaws reported a 12% increase in profits in its last quarterly report while according to the Bank of Canada, “overall inflationary risks have continued to recede in Canada after dominating the economic landscape”.

Saving on groceries as a newcomer to Canada

There are a few things newcomers can do to save money on groceries in Canada.

The main thing is to plan ahead, be organized and find the stores with the lowest prices. When making a shopping list, it can help to check the flyers for local stores and be prepared to go to more than one location.

There are also websites that have coupons that can be printed or downloaded for a discount on food and other products.

Finally, a helpful strategy is to go grocery shopping later in the day when staff will sometimes mark down food that hasn’t sold. Also, stick to store-brand pantry items instead of more expensive brands. And remember that local, independent greengrocers are often more cost-efficient for fresh produce than larger stores.

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