As Canadians grapple with food prices, a new hub aims to help

Click to play video: 'Agri-food expert speaks to grocery inflation hearings'
Agri-food expert speaks to grocery inflation hearings
WATCH: Agri-food expert speaks to grocery inflation hearings – Oct 25, 2023

As Canadians continue to face high prices at the grocery store, a new food price data hub is being launched to provide data on food prices in “one central and easy-to-access location.”

The “Food Price Data Hub” was launched on Tuesday through a collaboration between Statistics Canada, Industry, Science and Economic Development Canada, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, with one official saying they wanted to provide Canadians with the “best information” the agency has on food prices and food-related information.

“The objective of the hub was really to collate the information available from our colleagues at Agri-Food Canada and ourselves into a central, easy-to-access information hub,” Nathalie Brault, director-general of the industry statistics program at Statistics Canada, told Global News.

The hub comes as the federal government continues to try and tackle inflation, including food, with Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne last month urging grocers to be more forthcoming about their plans to stabilize prices.

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Earlier in October, he announced that major grocers had submitted their initial plans to the government for how to stabilize prices in the face of high inflation, but he told The Canadian Press in an interview weeks later that he wanted to see the companies provide more details about what they’re going to do before they do it.

The food price hub will be regularly updated to not only show the latest trends in food inflation, but also provide an “average price” of certain staple foods.

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“The experience of a consumer in a province or a city will likely differ from the Canadian averages displayed on the food hub,” Brault said, adding retail prices on certain items will still vary for Canadians.

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Food prices predicted to rise despite slowing inflation

In September, the annual rate of inflation did see a “broad-based” slowdown amid signs of continuing relief at the grocery story, Statistics Canada said with prices hitting 5.8 per cent — a cooling from the 6.9 per cent increase in August.

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Foods like meat, dairy, vegetables, coffee and tea all saw price growth slow month-to-month, though some like bakery products, fish and fresh fruit did see costs rise more quickly.

Among the foods provided in the hub are milk, white bread, apples, potatoes and ground beef, showing a comparison of the price change from a month prior. Currently, the hub shows the price comparison of each food between August and September of 2023.

For example, according to the hub, chicken breasts per kilogram rose from $14.75 to $15.48, while the cost of apples per kilogram dropped from $6.o8 to $4.50. Meanwhile, bananas didn’t change at all, with an average price of $1.68 both months.

According to Brault, the 12 foods selected and listed on the hub were based on what a “vast majority” of Canadians consume, but she noted it also includes a link to a list of almost 100 food items per province.

The hub, however, notes that the average prices provided should “not be used to calculate the change in price” because factors such as product rotation, quality and quantity changes and consumer preferences can impact price differences.

Grocery stores themselves can also have varying prices.

In addition to average food prices, the hub also provides a look at some of the changes in the food supply chain in terms of production, processing and packaging, and transportation, wholesale and retail. This includes changes to factors like crops and animal feed, plastic bags and animal products, and truck transportation and food wholesale markups.

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The agencies behind the hub said it also has links available to resources to allow Canadians to find out more about the sources of food inflation and its impacts on customers.

Brault said the hub will continue to be updated regularly with more recent information, as well as providing analysis, infographics and additional information as the agency identifies what Canadians and decision-makers are looking for.

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