Food prices to climb on weak dollar: report

The authors of the 2015 Food Price report released by the University of Guelph have revised their estimates for fresh food price hikes dramatically upward since last month due to the unexpected weakness of the Canadian dollar.

The dollar has plunged another eight cents against the U.S. dollar since the report was issued Jan. 21 and that means fresh foods, which come mainly from the United States, will cost even more than expected.

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A predicted rise of three to five per cent in the price of vegetables has been revised upward to a range of 5.5 to 7.5 per cent and that is likely to hit Canadians in the wallets now.

Imports of fresh foods, such as fruits and vegetables, typically peak in winter and early spring.

“Our loonie’s sudden fall, primarily due to low crude oil prices and lower interest rates, compelled the University of Guelph Food Institute to revise its food retail price forecast for 2015 for the second time in five years,” said co-author Sylvain Charlebois.

Food prices in Canada rose by six to 10 per cent last year, driven in part by scarcity due to farmers leaving drought fields unplanted in California and in part by the steady rise in the price of beef.

Beef prices have gone up between 20 and 40 per cent since 2011, depending on the quality of the cut.

Chicken, which is a supply managed commodity grown almost entirely by Canadian farmers for the domestic market, has crept up about seven per cent over that same period, according to the most recent data from Statistics Canada.

Supply managed commodities such as eggs and dairy products are produced almost entirely by Canadian farmers with far less exposure to currency fluctuation. The researchers predict prices for those foods will remain flat or even drop in the coming year.

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