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Agriculture

Average family to pay $400 more for groceries next year, report estimates

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  • The average Canadian family will pay about 0 more for groceries and roughly 0 more for dining out next year, an annual food price report predicts.

    Food prices will rise between 1.5 to 3.5 per cent in 2019, according to the report from researchers at the University of Guelph and Dalhousie University. That means the average family of four will spend $12,157 next year — up $411 from 2018.

    Vegetables will see the biggest price jumps — between four and six per cent for the category, according to the report.

    Meanwhile, meat and seafood prices are expected to fall, with the meat category to decline by one to three per cent and seafood costs to remain the same or fall up to two per cent.

    Since 2015, the team has predicted prices in those two categories would rise as high as six per cent each year.

    “This is a bit of a risk for us… We’ve never done that,” said Sylvain Charlebois, one of the lead researchers and a professor at Dalhousie University, referring to anticipating a decline.

    But the team is confident in its prediction.

    They believe there’s an oversupply of meat, he said, and Canadians are eating less animal protein. Instead, they’re showing more interest in alternative proteins, like quinoa and lentils.

    The plant-based protein trend is evident in recent manufacturer and restaurant moves as well.

    Meat processors Maple Leaf Foods Inc., for example, acquired two companies in this niche in recent years, Lightlife Foods and Field Roast GrainMeat Co.

    At the same time, fast food chains have started adding vegan and vegetarian options to their menus. A&W Food Services of Canada Inc. even temporarily sold out of its Beyond Meat patties shortly after adding them to its menu.

    Industry watchers have attributed the demand for plant-based protein to millennials, health-conscious baby boomers and concerns around antibiotic use in agriculture.

    A turning point for animal protein, though, was 2014 when beef prices started to rise dramatically, said Charlebois.

    Between December 2013 and December 2014 the monthly average retail price for one kilogram of ground beef rose more than 26 per cent, according to Statistics Canada data. For comparison, the price advanced about 3.5 per cent from December 2012-13. It reached a record high of $13.23 in October 2015.

    “It really spooked consumers,” said Charlebois, adding they started substituting plant-based protein into their diet.

    Butchers and grocers will likely take it easy on beef prices next year in an effort to bring people back to the red meat, he said.

    Consumers’ embrace of plant proteins will help push vegetable prices higher next year, as will the weather, according to the report.

    “Fruit and vegetables are some of the most perishable, fragile food products that are on the grocery shelf,” said Simon Somogyi, a lead researcher on the report and a University of Guelph professor.

    They’re particularly influenced by climactic events, like the El Nino expected to occur this winter, he said, which can result in warmer and drier conditions, and create shortages in the supply chain.

    As far as which vegetables may see the biggest increases, it’s difficult to know what produce item will become the next cauliflower, Charlebois said. The cruciferous vegetable saw soaring prices per head in 2016.

    Charlebois points to lettuce and tomatoes as possible candidates for big price fluctuations. Meanwhile, Somogyi said produce imported into Canada is more susceptible to weather events and the corresponding price changes.

    The report predicts more modest increases for bakery (one to three per cent), dairy (zero to two per cent), fruit (one to three per cent) and other food items, such as non-perishables, not covered by the other categories (zero to two per cent).

    Restaurant prices will rise between two and four per cent, according to the report, mainly because operators’ labour costs increased as several provinces and territories boosted their mandated minimum hourly wage recently.

    The researchers’ predictions for 2018 were fairly accurate. Fruit prices, which they estimated would rise between one to three per cent, stayed stagnant — the only category where they missed the mark.

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    Companies in this story: (TSX:MFI)

     

    Aleksandra Sagan, The Canadian Press


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    Ag Politics

    WATCH: When Boycotts Don’t Work

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  • What do you do when you want to boycott something, but can’t?

    This video is a co-production. Ryan Tipps at Ag Daily and Nick Saik worked on this piece together.  It’s about what can happen when bitten by a particular nasty little tick.  This tick, the “Lone Star” tick, has saliva that triggers an immune response reprogram in humans.  This in turn triggers an allergy to all types of red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork. In Nick’s words:

    “He’s written an excellent article that you can checkout here: https://www.agdaily.com/insights/when… Heads Up: I use a political analogy in this video. It’s not meant to rile anyone up, it just seemed like a good way to explain my point. I don’t care what side of the political spectrum you fall on, it was just an analogy….”

    This video was produced independently by Know Ideas Media


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    Agriculture

    Feds’ plan for neonicotinoids makes little sense, environment groups say

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  • OTTAWA — Environment groups are calling out Canada’s approach to assessing pesticides after seven years of reviews led Health Canada to simultaneously decide to allow certain popular products to keep being used with restrictions, and to propose banning the same products from outdoor uses altogether.

    The Pest Management Regulatory Agency on Thursday released its final decision on what limits should be placed on a category of nicotine-based pesticides known as neonicotinoids to keep them from killing bees. Starting in two years, the pesticides won’t be allowed to be sprayed at all on certain crops like apples and tree nuts and there will be limited times when they can be sprayed on many others, like tomatoes, eggplants and berries.

    Products that have no alternatives are given an extra year before they are affected by the decision.

    The agency said the risks the products pose to bees in other applications, such as pre-treating seeds, are acceptable and only require new labels to warn of the dangers. Most of Canada’s canola and corn crop seeds are pre-treated with neonicotinoids, along with about half the country’s soybean seeds.

    However, this decision, which won’t begin to take effect until 2021, will likely be overridden in less than a year when the agency finalizes a separate assessment of the exact same products for their impact on aquatic insects. The agency found in 2016 that the most popular of the neonicotinoids was building up in ground and surface water and recommended banning it outright. It also launched a special assessment of the other two most common “neonics,” concluding in 2018 that they also needed to be banned.

    The very final decision on that won’t come until January 2020.

    “Right now this is strictly about the risk to pollinators and for this assessment not all uses pose an unacceptable risk to pollinators,” said Scott Kirby, the director general of the environmental-assessment division of the pest management agency.

    Lisa Gue, a senior researcher at the David Suzuki Foundation, said it is “disturbing” that the agency is continuing to allow neonicotinoids at all given that the agency’s scientists have concluded they cause unacceptable harm to any kinds of insects.

    “The decision-making process here is just incomprehensible and incoherent,” she said.

    Beatrice Olivastri, the executive director of Friends of the Earth Canada, said the agency’s fragmented approach to reviewing the products is “nonsensical.”

    Neonicotinoids are used by farmers and hobby gardeners alike to manage pests like aphids and spider mites. Scientists blame the chemicals for weakening bees, making them more susceptible to disease and bad weather.

    More than one-third of the world’s food crops require pollinators, like bees, for production.

    The European Union banned neonicotinoids at the end of last year after scientists concluded there was no safe way to use them without hurting bees. In 2017, a task force at the International Union for Conservation of Nature updated a compilation of more than 1,100 peer-reviewed research studies of neonicotinoids and concluded there was no doubt they harm bees.

    Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press



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