Fresh food prices are skyrocketing

Fresh food prices are exploding

MISE À DAY

With inflation now reaching 7.5% in Quebec, some may have to resign themselves to eating less fresh vegetables and fish, foods whose prices have all jumped at least 10% for one year.

In Canada, inflation is now at 7.7%, the largest annual increase since January 1983. Food inflation is even worse, at 9.7%. 

The rise in the cost of living is obviously hitting low-wage earners and welfare recipients hard. The explosion in demand at food banks is there to prove it. 

Not just the poor…

But the middle class also goes there. 

“Before, I didn't watch the expense, but now I'm careful,” notes for example Éric Lheureux, who has worked all his life for the federal public service and who, at 62, receives a comfortable pension. 

With the price of fresh vegetables jumping 10.3% in May, like that of fresh or frozen fish at 11.7%, we can understand that throwing away food is increasingly wrong. 

Fresh food prices are exploding

Fresh food prices are exploding

Sacrificing quality

Some don't even buy fish anymore. 

“I would say that one in 10 customers walks into the store, finds it too expensive, and leaves right away,” says Bernard Cormier, fishmonger at Shamrock in Montreal for six years. 

If regular customers are still buying, he says, many others say they'll go elsewhere because it's cheaper, “but they're sacrificing quality.”

Increased insecurity

As an example, a 600-800 gram Mediterranean sea bass sells for $24 today, compared to $19 12 months ago.

The issue of food security is therefore very glaring, as observed every day by a budget advisor from Option consommateurs. 

“We have more and more requests, our flood of calls has increased a lot,” laments Johanne Le Blanc.

In her consultations, she spends more and more time on the food budget item, which people tend to underestimate. 

“Precariousness is increasing and there is not enough money to people for food,” she observes.

Because if the price of food, which is a variable expense, increases a lot, the same goes for fixed expenses, such as rent: 7.4% in May. 

Transportation also jumped 14.6% in May, which includes a 48% rise in gas prices. 

In short, people are thinking less and less about vitamins and more and more to simply satisfy their satiety, summarizes Johanne Le Blanc.

 

Wage increases far from keeping up with inflation   

While inflation eats away at the income of Quebecers and Canadians, the average salary only jumps a tiny bit in comparison. 

In Canada, from May 2021 to May 2022, wages increased by 3.9%, against 7.7% for inflation. 

“There have already been significant wage increases in some companies, but not all of them can do it, ”says Karl Blackburn, president and CEO of the Conseil du patronat du Québec (CPQ). 

The boss of the bosses' lobby thinks among others to Olymel workers, who obtained 26% over six years last year.

But profit margins would be too fragile in many sectors for bosses to offer pay rises that match inflation. 

Puzzle for bosses

“It's a headache that is settling in Quebec, and it's causing problems for employers. It’s not just the salary,” he defends himself, mentioning that many teleworking policies have been put in place. 

However, there have never been so many vacancies in the country. In the first quarter, there were 957,500, which is a record.

In Quebec, there were 224,370, which is more than the number of unemployed, established at 190,000.

With an unemployment rate at a historic low – 5.1% in Canada and 4.2% in Quebec in May –, should wages not increase more rapidly?

“ In the context of the current inflationary spiral, there are even investment projects that are put on ice, because there is a significant increase in costs,” argues Mr. Blackburn. 

The real problem for employers, according to him, is the shortage of manpower, which hinders development and which at the same time puts pressure on the bosses. 

–With TVA Nouvelles

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