SASKATOON – As the Canadian dollar continues to slump, one place you might be feeling the pinch is on your grocery bill. Food prices are expected to rise at or above inflation throughout 2016.
While this is bad news for consumers, Saskatchewan producers are singing a different tune.
Prof. Bill Brown is the head of the department of Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics at the College of Agriculture and Bioresources and says that given our low dollar, this “makes our wheat and our canola and our lentils cheaper than the Americans, and that’s good for our exporting.”
Saskatchewan’s industry is set up bulk exports, meaning it’s more profitable for our producers to sell large quantities internationally than to refine them locally.
Brown says that this creates situations where our “lentils and chick peas and such, which we produce a lot of, could very well be grown in Saskatchewan and imported back from Turkey because of packaging.”
Typically this means higher profit margins for our producers and lower prices for consumers, however it does make us more vulnerable to international fluctuations.
Brown says that with our current exchange rate, we might start seeing produce coming from other sources than the United States. “If our dollar stays bellow 70 cents (U.S.) for an extended period of time of a year or two, and our exchange rate with Mexico or Chile are good or the same, then I could see us switching more to that.”
While typically more expensive, the movement towards locally grown and produced foods is not as impacted by dollar fluctuations.
Olauson Food Products is one of many who strive to keep money in our economy rather than source internationally. Co-owner Caitlin Barlas swears by the quality and sustainability of using local products.
“If you can reduce those food miles, use what’s in your own backyard, you can become a little bit more self sufficient in your corner of the world, build your own economy, and then you’re less vulnerable to those international fluctuations,” said Barlas.
Although buying imported products would be cheaper for Olauson Food Products, they really wanted to join the local food movement.
“We’ve kind of went really far to the way of convenience,” said Barlas, “and now we’re kind of taking it back. We’ve seen the repercussions of obesity, unsustainable food system, and now we’re looking to slow it down and go back to the slow market.”
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