Produce prices have gone mad

Maureen Coulter comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on January 20, 2016

Marlene Bryenton of Charlottetown loads her groceries for the week into her car at Sobeys recently. Bryenton said her visit to the grocery store cost more than she expected.

©MAUREEN COULTER/THE GUARDIAN

Chris Stewart of Fort Augustus has noticed his dollar doesn’t go as far as it used to when buying fresh produce at the grocery stores in Prince Edward Island this year.

“My vegetable prices have gone up a lot, and that is pretty important to me because I’m a vegetarian, so when those prices change it impacts my food budget a lot.”

Stewart said because of these high prices, he has made some minor modifications in his diet by buying more frozen food and in-season items like root vegetables.

“Cauliflower has gone mad, that’s for sure,” laughed Stewart,” I won’t buy that for seven or eight dollars, which is too bad because there are a lot of great dishes you can make with that.”

Jim Cormier, director of the Atlantic Canada division for the Retail Council of Canada, said the falling Canadian dollar and poor weather in crop-growing areas are creating some very challenging circumstances for the retail sector and for consumers.

“In the dead of winter, people want their fresh produce, and the only way to get that is to bring (it) in from countries that have a 12-month-a-year growing season.”

Claude Tessier, president of Sobeys Quebec, told The Canadian Press that flooding caused by El-Nino has caused supply shortages and higher prices on Mexican and Californian produce. As a result, Canadians should expect high prices for their produce for at least several more weeks.

Stewart said these high prices will certainly impact the health of Islanders, as it will be more difficult to eat fresh and healthy.

“It’s harder to make that grocery budget fit and still pick up the fruits and vegetables you need to be healthy.”

This is also something Marlene Bryenton of Charlottetown is worried about as many Islanders are already struggling to put food on the table.

Bryenton, who said her visit to the grocery store cost more than she expected, is noticing things like beef, cauliflower, broccoli and peppers are taking a spike.

Bryenton said high food costs will impact not just lower-income families but middle-income families as well. She feels more people will be forced into using food banks and soup kitchens.

“It’s going to have a real reflection on what these families are going to be able to do in the future.”