Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Canadian eating habits change as food prices rise

Rising food prices have caught the attention of Canadians, leading to reduced meat consumption and greater caution when shopping. Meanwhile, one academic says that Statistics Canada may be underestimating how much food inflation has occurred.

Even though Statistics Canada’s estimates are on the conservative side, the increase is substantial. The agency reports that meat prices have risen about 10 percent over the past six months, while groceries have risen 8 to 10 percent in comparison to that time.

However, Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University in Halifax, says the increase could be even greater.

“Currently, Statistics Canada may be underestimating the food inflation rate by at least 1.5 percent,” he said in a commentary published on September 22. “A 1.5 percent increase for the average family of four would represent about $180 to $200 worth of food each year.”

To find out how price increases over the past six months have affected consumer purchases, Charlebois’s lab partnered with Caddle to survey 10,005 Canadians in the summer of 2021.

Nationally, 49 percent of respondents said they bought less meat because of higher prices, with the biggest drop in Albertan at 57 percent.

Respondents also said that they are shopping more cautiously now than in 2020. Nearly four in ten (39.6 percent) are buying the best food near expiration or before the date to take advantage of the discount, 37.5 percent are buying more home brands, 41.6 percent read weekly travelers more often, and 39.5 percent more. Bar use coupons.

The practice of “shrinking”, where companies maintain prices but sell food in smaller quantities or in packages, was observed by 73.5% of Canadians,

Charlebois told The Epoch Times that smaller packaging can reduce food waste, but shoppers don’t like the practice.

“It upsets people,” he said. “[Companies] Selling you the illusion that you’re buying the same thing, but you’re not.”

Statistics Canada reported in July that the price of fresh vegetables has fallen by 7.5 percent since July 2020, and the price of fresh fruits has declined by 0.6 percent. In August it was reported that the price of fresh vegetables has fallen by 5 per cent since August 2020, while the prices of fresh fruits have increased by 0.8 per cent.

Charlebois says wildfires in BC and the US Pacific Coast region mean prices are sure to rise.

“Production is going to be affected, nuts are going to be affected, because we import a lot of nuts and fruits and vegetables, especially fruits from California,” he said.

“It can really affect availability and affordability. Importers will probably go elsewhere to find some of these products, but again, those other options may be more expensive.”

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StatsCan’s Search vs Betterkart’s

On some items, Statistics Canada and Canadian company Betterkart, a platform that compares food prices in grocery stores, disagree about which direction prices have gone since January. Statistics Canada says a liter of ketchup costs 5.9 percent less, but Betterkart says it’s up by 7.3 percent. Similarly, Statistics Canada says the price of 500 grams of macaroni dropped by 3.1 percent, but Betterkart said it rose 12.7 percent.

On some other items, the agency had low estimates on price hike. It said one kilogram of frozen french fries rose 5.9 percent, while Betterkart said it rose 26.2 percent. Statistics Canada said the price of 454 grams of butter rose 2.8 percent, but Betterkart said it rose 35.5 percent.

In his remarks, Charlebois wrote that although the agency is responsible for the “shrinking”, “its food basket accounts for about 70 percent of products that no longer exist on the market,” which suggests the need for an update.

“The federal agency provides details about its processing and reporting, but it never discloses what brands it sees, which stores, or how the data is being processed in Ottawa,” they wrote.

“Some of the data capturing process requires work and of course more transparency. Statistics Canada claims it constantly changes its food basket, but it still only monitors baked beans as a vegetable protein-based product. For fish and seafood, canned salmon is basically this.”

Statistics Canada communications officer Maryse Carrier explained in an email that “food prices are now captured using weekly scanner data collected directly from most grocery retailers across Canada … and sales where applicable.” and promotions,” noting that 17,000 of the prices have been captured from those retailers.

“Representative products, which are a narrow class of goods for which the average price change for the same group of products is expected to be representative, is added and removed each month as food products appear and disappear from the market.” ,” wrote Carrier.

“Before the pandemic, food prices were also collected by interviewers visiting the store; However, this has now been replaced by online prices using store websites or flyers. “

Charlebois thinks the agency needs to rethink its methodology because “market conditions have changed over time – they are much more volatile than they were before.”

“I will not question the good faith of Statscan, [but] Their data collection process may not have accurately captured what is actually happening,” he said.

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Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.

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This News Originally From – The Epoch Times

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