Winnipeg shoppers may be spending a little longer in the produce aisle as bad weather and supply chain issues continue to impact freshness — and prices — at city grocery stores.
After finding produce that looked past its prime during a recent shop, Susan Edginton says she is now taking a closer look at what she’s putting in her cart.
Read more: Winnipeg home economist says look past ‘best before’ dates, shop less to cut down food cost, waste
“There’s stuff that’s old and mouldy and it shouldn’t be there,” she told Global News while looking for lettuce at a local grocery store this week.
“A lot of stuff isn’t as fresh. There’s hold-ups and deliveries, so there’s not a lot of it, of some products.
“And the prices are, of course, crazy – it’s crazy.”
Sylvain Charlebois of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University says quality can vary between stores, with larger chains often looking outside of Canada to get the best deals on produce during the winter months.
But with bad weather in growing regions like California, Charlebois says retailers have had to look further for certain produce.
“So my guess right now, the larger chains are looking at Spain, even South America,” he told 680 CJOB’s The START.
“Obviously with the length of travel, you’re obviously going to see a difference in quality of the product you buy at the store.”
The price of food at Canadian grocery stores was up 11 per cent in December 2022, according to data released by Statistics Canada this week, although those numbers show a slight cooling from the 11.4 per cent reported in November.
While Statistics Canada reported slower price growth among staples such as bakery products (up 13.5 per cent vs. 15.5 per cent in November) and coffees and teas (up 13.2 per cent vs. 16.8 per cent in November), the agency said December saw continued pressure on fresh vegetables, with prices rising 13.6 per cent last month compared with 11.7 per cent in November.
Tomatoes cost 21.9 per cent more in December, year over year.
Statistics Canada blamed bad weather in growing regions for the spike.
In Winnipeg, Food Fare owner Munther Zeid said the need for quality control usually picks up in the winter, but this year has brought more challenges.
“It’s been difficult this year, a lot of, just a lot of change in weather,” he said, telling Global News he recently had to send back a delivery of broccoli that arrived with signs of mould.
“They all had black marks on it. Our supplier gave us credit and shipped out new product.”
Zeid says the trouble finding fresh produce has seen the prices of some vegetables — like celery and broccoli — nearly triple.
He says the current problems with supply and freshness will subside when local producers get up and running this summer.
That’s as long as Manitoba sees a good growing season, he adds.
For Edginton, who is on a fixed income, a return to local produce can’t come soon enough.
“Canada is pretty resourceful and we have a lot of these products here,” she said.
“I’d like to see more of that come from here, you know, Canadian-grown.”
— with files from Global’s Rosanna Hempel and Craig Lord