In addition to the health and nutritional benefits, Canadians will have another benefit to substituting fruit and vegetables for meat in their diets in 2020 – lower food bills.
Overall food bills are expected to increase by about 4 per cent next year, according to the Canada’s Food Price Report released by Dalhousie University and the University of Guelph. Among specific categories, meat is expected to be between 4 and 6 per cent more expensive than in 2019, the highest of the eight listed food categories.
Baked goods are the laggard with 0 to 2 per cent inflation projected. Most other categories fall within the 2 to 4 per cent band. Prices in British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec and Prince Edward Island are expected to exceed the national average, while Alberta, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are expected to be below the national average. Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador are forecast to align with the national average.
The average family will spend about $480 more on groceries in 2020. Grocery prices have risen faster than overall Canadian inflation over the past decade. The cost of food in Canada increased 3.7 per cent in October 2019 compared to the previous year. Overall inflation is about half that level.
The forces moving food prices higher include climate change and trade issues. The specific costs of climate change are difficult to quantify, said Sylvain Charlebois, the report’s lead author told the Globe and Mail. “Every single month there’s at least one product that goes up 10 to 20 per cent” because of erratic weather patterns.
Increasing popularity of plant-based meat substitutes may change market dynamics, but global demand for meat outside Canada will increase domestic prices in 2020.
One project leader noted that one in eight Canadian households is “food insecure” and with stagnant wage growth, higher food costs are likely to make that situation worse. “The ever-increasing use of food banks across the country is an example of how Canadians can’t afford to put food on their plates,” noted Guelph project lead Simon Somogyi.
Charlebois encouraged increasing the quantity of vegetables and fruits produced in Canada all year round through policy changes that would subsidize indoor and greenhouse farming and fund research into food plant breeds that grow well indoors.
Food items comprise about 16.5 per cent of Canada’s overall Consumer Price Index.