The turkey, the vegetables, even the butter-filled shortbread on the Christmas dinner table this year will cost Canadians more than last year, and those prices are expected to go up even more in 2022.
The biggest hike, according to Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, will be the traditional main course.
“The bird, if you’re into turkey, the price per kilo has gone up, I’d say, by about 15 per cent”, said Charlebois. “That’s due to the pricing formula and supply management. Farmers will get the money they need to pay their bills.”
At the Glebe Meat Market in downtown Ottawa, owner Stephane Sauvé says he’s ordered 900 turkeys from four local farmers.
“Compared to beef, it’s still very reasonable, but some people get sticker shock,” said Sauvé. “A 20-pound turkey can be expensive, but it will feed 20 people.”
Droughts in U.S. cause impact
It’s not only turkeys that cost more, as vegetable prices have jumped from four to five per cent, according to Charlebois.
“Last year the dollar was over 80 cents. So to import, our buying power has lessened compared to last year. So that’s the big factor there, and droughts in America, especially in California, have impacted productivity,” he said.
Other causes for the price shift include COVID-19-related disruptions to the food supply chain, adverse weather effects, labour force challenges, high inflation, and food transportation challenges, according to the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie.
While the cakes, pies and cookies are pricier, too, Charlebois says the cost of flour is up by just a “modest, three per cent” increase.
The only item on the festive plate that hasn’t increased in cost is the potato, due in part to the problems PEI has had with potato wart fungus, which poses no threat to food safety.
“Potatoes are just not an issue right now, to be honest,” said Charlebois. “They have tons of potatoes. For a 10-pounder, it’s pretty much the same price as last year.”
For more than 20 years, Meals on Wheels in Ottawa has delivered turkey dinners with all the trimmings and other “goodies.”
Executive director Baudouin St-Cyr says frozen meal costs have risen four cent this year and hot food has jumped by three cent. his business purchases cooked meals from other organizations and delivers them to seniors and others in need.
With no cost of living increases in terms of government funding, St-Cyr said he doesn’t know how his organization will pay for meals with their current budget.
“The government is going to have to do a lot of thinking over the next little while in terms of how they’re going to support agencies,” said St-Cyr.
The pandemic, along with the unemployment it initially created, has only aggravated problems of food insecurity, according to Krystal Taylor, senior nutritionist with Ottawa Public Health.
“Before the pandemic, we knew 13.9 per cent, or about 140,000 in Ottawa reported being marginally to severely food insecure,” said Taylor.
“We do anticipate this is much higher now.”
Dairy prices to increase in 2022
Next year likely won’t make things any easier as Canada’s Food Price Report 2022, recently released by Charlebois’ group at Dalhousie University, predicts an overall food price increase of five to seven per cent for next year.
Supply chain disruptions, labour market challenges, high transportation costs, reduced Maritime transport capacity, and disruptions due to closures will all add to the increases in 2022, according to the report.
Charlebois suggests, if you can, splurge on the cheese and butter at this year’s dinner because the Canadian Dairy Commission has recommended an increase of 8.4 per cent for milk prices starting in February.
“We are expecting cheese, yogurt, fluid, milk, anything dairy to be much more expensive next year compared to this year,” he said.