NEWS

Canadian dollar sinking means costs for fruits, veggies likely to rise

02/03/2015 07:47 EST | Updated 04/05/2015 05:59 EDT
The Canadian dollar's decline could also push up the cost of fruit by as much as five per cent, and vegetables up to seven per cent this year, according to a revised annual forecast by the University of Guelph's Food Institute.

The group's original Food Price Report for 2015 was released in December and predicted a smaller cost increase of one to three per cent for fruit and nuts, and three to five per cent for vegetables. After seeing the dollar's sudden drop over the past six weeks, the Food Institute published a revision Tuesday to its initial forecast. 

"We didn’t anticipate [the Canadian dollar] going down as early as it did early in the new year, and that will dramatically affect products we are importing, which we do more of in the winter," said Mike von Massow, a business and economics professor and a member of the group.

Overall, von Massow says, food prices are predicted to rise between 0.7 per cent and three per cent.

The Canadian dollar hit a six-year low on Friday, closing at 78.67 cents. As of then, the loonie was down nine per cent from the beginning of the year.

Von Massow said customers will start to feel the pinch in the coming weeks.

"We’ve already started to see it happen a little bit in the supermarkets, but to a degree it also takes a little bit of time for things to get through the system," he said. "We’re starting to see fruits and vegetables, those imported things at this time of year, go up and we would expect to see that accelerate in the next few weeks."

This is the fifth year the group has published a food price report, and the second time it has done a revision. 

Von Massow said the group considers factors like geopolitical events, the price of oil, the retail market and food production around the world when making predictions.

Other imported foods like seafood, nuts and some specialty cheeses will also be affected by the weak Canadian dollar. But commodities like dairy, beef and pork that are mostly produced domestically shouldn't be greatly affected.

"We’re very fortunate in that generally for North Americans, food accounts for less than 10 per cent of our salaries," said von Massow. "That’s not to say we don’t feel a pinch when prices go up but we’re not at a stage where the majority of us aren’t going to be able to afford fruits and vegetables."

Von Massow adds that Canadians can adopt new shopping habits to cut their costs without having to cut off healthy foods. He suggests they:

- Take advantage of sales.

- Pick seasonal produce.

- Shop frequently to keep fresh food from spoiling.

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