Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

Ranch Musings columnist David Zirnhelt. (File photo)

RANCH MUSINGS: Brace yourself, food prices rising

The forecast in this Canada Food Price Report for 2022 is an increase of just short of $1,000

As 2021 ended, food price forecasters admitted that their 2021 forecast annual increase was out by $106, less than the almost $700 predicted.

The forecast in this Canada Food Price Report for 2022 is an increase of just short of $1,000, or $966. For a family of four, that would be $14,770 per year. That is an $80 per month increase that households will have to budget for. This will hurt lower income families but is achievable for most middle-income families.

On the whole, personal savings have increased to record levels during the pandemic. This is accounted for by less spending for eating out, inability to source consumer goods, and less travel.

Some commentators have suggested that bulk buying, couponing, and urban farming are strategies to lower food costs. There is even a store in Vancouver where customers pay what they can afford for the products on the shelves.

The increases predicted for this year are: dairy and restaurant up six to eight per cent, bakery and vegetables up five to seven per cent, fruit three to five per cent, other two to four per cent, and meat and seafood zero to two per cent. The average then is five to seven per cent whereas overall inflation is around three per cent.

READ MORE: Gasoline prices at Canadian pumps hit highest national average ever

Just as this article is going to print, a new report out of the U.S. says price increases may only be half of what was predicted at year’s end in 2021. Supply chain efficiencies, no doubt!

Droughts in the U.S. are accounting for many increases. In Canada droughts account for increases in wheat prices.

For those of you wanting to raise meat for your own consumption or for local sales, particularly, organic producers, one source tells me that organic pork and chicken feed is up as much as 50-100 per cent. My guess is that there is short supply from the prairies and that demand is high in B.C., making prices much higher than the rate of inflation.

Some economists will say there is a “market failure” here. One might think that when the price of a product goes up that some producer or processor could jump in and undercut the current suppliers whose prices are forced up. However, all links in the supply chains have to be holding their strength so the chain doesn’t break.

In the U.S., the government is subsidizing and protecting medium- sized meat processors in order to reduce the economic power of the large oligopolies (several as opposed to one which is a monopoly). We will see if this strategy will work!

Some things, in addition to those suggested above, which might make food more supportable, are for local food growers to buy their inputs co-operatively (bulk buying), extend the variety of what is grown in backyard gardens, grow in modest greenhouses and use row covers to extend the seasons. Consumers should purchase what is in season locally and substitute local product for the expensive exotic commodities.

There are few if any new ideas here, but it is a matter of putting plans in place, communicating with others and working on growing and sourcing food at lower costs (buy seed in bigger quantities by collaborating with friends and neighbours). We can keep in mind that fresher, more organically grown food is probably more nutritious and healthier.

The joy of more food self sufficiency can be beneficial as well as being cheaper than more expensive “imports.” Then, there is the gleaning of fruits, berries and veggies that go unsold from someone’s backyard or small farm.

That said, we can all try harder, by making new habits and breaking old habits. This is easier said than done, as they say. There are definitely rewards for making the effort. We can!

READ MORE: Canadian families will pay an extra $966 for groceries in 2022, report says

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AgricultureColumnistWilliams Lake

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