Report shows meat prices will drop in 2019, but how will this affect local producers?

Click to play video 'Alberta producers react to report suggesting meat prices to drop in 2019' Alberta producers react to report suggesting meat prices to drop in 2019
Producers in southern Alberta are reacting to the newest Canada Food Prices Report which forecasts an increase in vegetable prices but a drop in meat prices.

Canada’s Food Price Report, developed by researchers with the University of Guelph and Dalhousie University, predicts meat prices will decline in 2019 — the first time since the study was established nine years ago. But what could those decreases mean for local producers relying on the industry?

“Meat prices have been higher. They’ve kind of come down, but that’s a good thing, too, in that we want consumers to be able to afford our product,” said Ryan Kasko with Kasko Cattle Co. Ltd.

READ MORE: Here’s how much more Canadians will likely spend on groceries in 2019

The report predicts that the price of meat across the country will see decreases of anywhere between one and three per cent, citing droughts from 2014 and 2015 as a main factor.

“Those draughts led to a lot of cattle farms reducing the size of their beef herds, and it’s taken a good four or five years to get those herds back to an optimal level,” said Simon Somogyi, a professor at the University of Guelph and one of the study’s authors.

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“We think that prices are sort of stabilizing or coming down from the highs we’ve seen.”

But Kasko believes the meat market will remain strong in southern Alberta, as he explains that small fluctuations within the industry are inevitable.

“I’m optimistic about the beef industry, and we do have good demand for our product and the prices are pretty good,” Kasko said.

The report also highlights a change in dietary habits, with many Canadians switching over to vegetarian diets.

“We recognize that you’ve got this rise in vegetarianism happening in the marketplace, especially in the younger generations,” Somogyi said.

READ MORE: More people in Lethbridge are growing their own food as grocery costs continue to rise: garden retailer

However, affording vegetables may be more of a struggle in 2019, as the report predicts produce prices jumping anywhere from four to six per cent.

Paul de Jonge, a local farmer at Broxburn Vegetables and Cafe, agrees with the prospect of pricier products and attributes the possible hike to increased labour costs across the country.

“Vegetable growers are very labour-intensive so when labour costs continue to go up, somehow that has to be reflected in the costs of the vegetables,” said de Jonge.

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With the report stating that the average Canadian family can expect to spend around $400 more a year on their annual grocery bill, growers and producers hope consumers will continue to support local products in the new year.