COVID-19: Your groceries will likely cost two to four percent more this year

Revised foreast by Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph suggests fewer sales flyers will be coming our way

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      Expect your overall grocery bill to rise up to four percent this year.

      That's according to the latest forecast for 2020 food prices from Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph. 

      The revised report shows that meat tops the list with anticipated increases of four to six percent.

      Vegetables and seafood follow, with anticipated increases from two to four percent.

      The price of fruit is expected to rise by 1.5 to 3.5 percent, although that could be offset by the upcoming Canadian harvest.

      Dairy, meanwhile, is expected to cost one to three percent more this year.

      Canadian Food Business.

      The cost of bakery items could remain unchanged or climb by two percent.

      Fluctuations in oil prices, currency exchange rates, and other market indicators since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic all play a role in the forecasted changes.

      The loonie is at its lowest level in several years, weakening our importers’ buying power.

      “Most farmers are looking at an average year, at best,” Sylvain Charlebois, scientific director at Agri-Food Analytics Lab and the report’s lead author said in a statement.

      Weekly flyers appear to have shrunk across the country; there are fewer promotions are available to Canadians. This is likely due to the fact that grocers are devoting their energy to stocking shelves. The authors expect the number of food products sold at a discount to be reduced over the next few months, until the COVID-19 crisis subsides.

      Anxiety mounts around going to the grocery store

      The report also found that more Canadians are shopping online than ever before out of fear of going grocery shopping. Nine percent of Canadians who have never ordered food online are now doing so.

      In fact, 76 percent of Canadians now consider a visit to the grocery store as an inherent risk to their health.

      Charlebois says rationing of goods is completely reasonable in these unprecedented times.

      “We are expecting to continue to receive reports of empty shelves, but the situation will likely improve,” Charlebois said.

      Some good news for certain workers 

      Despite staggering numbers of job losses and layoffs, there is positive news for some workers: wages in the grocery sector are going up.

      Salaries have increased between five and 15 percent. The report’s authors estimate that more than 250,000 employees working in more than 5,000 stores have received a pay increase since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak.

      “Most employers have committed to increasing salaries until early May, but that could be extended depending on how recruitment becomes a challenge amid the outbreak and beyond,” Charlebois said. “This will certainly increase operational costs.”

      For more information about the forecast, visit the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University or the Arrell Food Institute.