Food Prices in the news

There was a most excellent post about local food done by bill about farming and food..

We’re friends with a nearby farm family trying to make it as full-time farmers. It’s a large family and the children pull their weight and more, as I did at their age. They work very hard and they’ve done a great job of developing a loyal customer base. I don’t know how they’re doing financially, but I know it’s challenging. They want their children to be able to earn their living as farmers. They want them to be able to go out into the world someday and have their own farm, their own house, the ability to send their children to college if they like. But those kinds of basic things, which most Americans take for granted these days, are only available to a tiny minority of the farmers in our movement–the ones who write books and inspire the rest of us. They’re not the norm.

My friend, the father in that large family, once told me something about this business that has stuck with me. If farmers price their products at below the cost of production, he said, then they are paying people to eat their food. Worse, when farmers choose to operate at a loss, by setting their prices too low, they hurt families like his, which is trying to make ends meet with the money they earn from farming. I took that to heart and we’ve tried to set our prices fairly. But the truth is we’re constrained by a system flooded with cheap industrial food. Our prices should be triple what they are, which would put them in line with what people paid for food a generation ago. Small family farms could survive with those prices. But very few people would pay them these days. So it doesn’t seem a realistic option to me.

both the whole post and the comments were very grounded and a solid glimpse across the states and canada

and just this week locally, there was great news..

The Community Foundation of Ottawa presented a cheque for $125,000 to the West Carleton Healthy Food Coalition, EnviroCentre’s Sustain West Carleton initiative, and the Ottawa Good Food Box to improve food security in West Carleton, Ottawa’s largest municipal ward with limited access to fresh, affordable, healthy food. It was one of the three top proposals presented to a jury of community leaders and food experts at the Community Foundation of Ottawa’s second annual New Leaf Community Challenge on Thursday at the Lansdowne Park Horticulture Building.

“All of the projects presented at today’s Challenge were highly creative, compelling and, most importantly, designed to make a measurable difference in our community over the long-term,” said Marco Pagani, President & CEO of the Community Foundation of Ottawa. “While I know it was a difficult decision, I am confident that the Transforming the Food System in West Carleton project will contribute to systemic, sustainable progress on food security in the Ottawa region.”

This second year of funding in support of a more food-secure Ottawa reflects the Community Foundation’s commitment to fostering systems-level progress on key issues affecting the city’s quality of life. The West Carleton food system proposal is a prime example of the type of innovative community collaboration the Foundation is pleased to support as it will focus on creating the needed infrastructure to improve food systems and food security in West Carleton by: establishing a new community root cellar that will enable area farmers to store their produce longer; creating a West Carleton Food Centre where local farmers can drop off their produce for redistribution; expanding the market share of local food through the Good Food Box (GFB) and local retailers; and expanding/strengthening the GFB program in the region.

When it comes to food, we need to see the bigger picture, we need local food grown and ways to hold it and share it, we need the small farms, we will have the big guys, that is not going to go away..  Finding a balance will to me be key, I am lucky on my homestead, I grow my veggies, fruit, I have eggs an milk and meat.. but I also buy a green box to help support the program, and I try and buy local for the same reason, and I try an show an teach by the blog, that you can change the way you do things, having lived in the artic, food costs are a very real concern to me.. I expect they are to most folks, or will be!!

Cauliflower lovers will have to spend extra to get the cruciferous vegetable on the table this Christmas as the drought in California is causing a spike in the price.

John McLean, the general manager of wholesale produce retailer Orleans Fresh Fruit, said he’s paying about $70 per case for California cauliflower when a case usually retails for about $20 per case this time of year.

The weak Canadian dollar is also factoring into the price, he said.

The bottom line at the checkout is that a head of cauliflower is going for about $8 — and McLean said the price could still go up as stores look to make a profit from the sale.

“It’s going to land in to me at $70 [per case], say. There’s 12 heads in a frigging case. Do your math,” he said.

Leafy greens such as spinach, Romaine lettuce and parsley are also in shortage due to smaller crops caused by the drought, McLean said.

Splurge or save?

Cauliflower is part of almost all vegetable dishes at Chinatown’s Phuket Royal — dishes like pad thai, curry, and stir-fried noodles — but it’s now being replaced with other vegetables like broccoli or peppers, said the restaurant’s Kung Lim.

“We have no choice. The cost is too high,” she said. “It used to [be] $2 something, right, now it’s $8 — four times more. That’s crazy.”

Shoppers may soon see the effects of a nationwide butter shortage as they start their holiday cooking and baking despite efforts by the Canadian dairy industry to ramp up production.

Brian Cameron, the general manager of Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia, said in the last two years consumer demand has increased two to three per cent year over year. Fluid cream has increased by three-and-a-half per cent.

“For butter and a dairy product, that’s a large increase,” Cameron told CBC’s Maritime Noon. 

Brian Cameron says dairy boards across Canada are trying to avoid a serious shortage over the holiday season. (CBC)

“There’s a move in the health sector — and I’m not a nutritionist — away from trans fats and more towards sources of fat.”

Charlebois says the average Canadian household will spend $8,631 on food in 2016, an increase of about $345. That figure includes $2,416 spent at restaurants.

“Canada is the only industrialized country where you find the food inflation rate to be above 2.5 per cent. That’s significant. Right now we are sitting at 4.1 per cent,” Charlebois told CBC News.

“Europe food inflation’s barely at one per cent. There’s too much food in the market. The U.S. inflation rate is much lower than ours. The currency clearly is not helping families that are in need of affordable foods.”

He said Canada has become more vulnerable to currency swings and inflation, because it has allowed food processing in the country to be moved offshore. That’s one reason we are paying more for pasta and bread, even though Canada produces the wheat.

Charlebois said the high prices are hardest on low-income Canadians and people in remote communities, who often have difficulty affording fresh food.

“We need to figure out a way to offer affordable foods to northern communities,” he said.

Climate change and El Nino

Another factor that could affect food prices is climate change, according to the Food Institute study.

The drought in California has pushed up fruit and vegetable prices in 2015, but in 2016 a big El Nino should mean a lot of rain that will restore crops in the U.S. southwest and could help keep prices down. El Nino is a Pacific current that affects weather pattern.

Charlebois is watching several consumer trends that could have an effect on food production in the coming year, among them the trend to local food and a concern about animal welfare and more emphasis on protein alternatives.

Meat prices rose so rapidly over the past two years that consumers have shifted to alternatives, including pulses such as lentils and chickpeas.

“People are looking for local products …,” he said. They’re concerned about the ethical treatment of animals, the ingredients, the naturalization of food.”

Charlebois pointed to decisions by companies such as Kraft and General Mills to put more natural ingredients in food and be more transparent about how ingredients are sourced.

“Throw  in a lot of different things that may drive prices — like McDonald’s this year to go cage-free cured chicken without antibiotics — all these things will only drive prices higher,” he said.

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2 Responses to Food Prices in the news

  1. MaryQuiContrary says:

    The things you cite in your blog seem to me like storm clouds gathering on the horizon: wild weather fluctuations, supply chain difficulties, steep price increases…..etc. etc. The one ray of sunshine is that there also seems to be a growing awareness of the uncertainties, and even dangers, inherent in an industrial food system. I can’t help but believe that true food security starts at home; we only count on what we can grow with our own hands. And that opens up a whole world of skills and knowledge that will take the rest of my life to acquire! Since I grew up on a dairy farm I’m not exactly starting at zero, nevertheless, many of the taken-for-granted skills my grandparents exercised every day have already faded into the mists of yesterday just from lack of use. Hubby and i consider ourselves to be the “Bridge Generation” and have made it our mission to resurrect and hone some of those old-time skills and tools, use them for our own pleasure (better hobbies than playing golf or shopping!) and teach them to our grandkids. A tall order, I guess………we won’t be perfect at it but hopefully the transmission of some of these old ways will ensure that our descendants won’t be totally at the mercy of the supermarkets. I’m glad to hear of some ‘rays of sunshine’ in the Ottawa area……….let’s hope it spreads far and wide!

    • hi mary, so glad you are sharing that knowledge, its so important to do this with the next generation, it still more then you know, I often hear my grandparents in my head when I do things on the farm.

      yes, storm clouds as you say but also there are people working on local things that make me smile.

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