Falling loonie raising costs on produce

Josh Pennell and The Canadian Press
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Prices of imported fruit and vegetables growing

Some snowbirds might rethink their trip to Florida this year due to the lagging loonie, which was coming in a little above the US70-cent mark on Tuesday, but that won’t stop produce from such states coming here. The staggering price tag might have people choosing not to pull the peel off that orange, though.

CP photo/Paul Chiasson
A customer buys lettuce at the Jean Talon Market, Monday in Montreal. The prices of produce from the United States coming into Canada are swelling across the country including in Newfoundland and Labrador due to the poor value of the loonie.

Nearly all fruit and vegetables eaten by Canadians are imported and that’s even more true in this province than in some others. A descending loonie makes for some pretty ripe prices on produce in a place already paying more than many other parts of the country.

Kristie Jameson is the executive director of Food First NL — previously known as the Food Security Network. It’s a group looking to promote and ensure food security for people in the province with a particular focus on access to adequate and healthy food.

Jameson says the issue of the lagging loonie is one more reason to start producing food in the province.

“It’s another situation that shows us being so incredibly dependent on outside food sources and puts us in quite a vulnerable position when it comes to access to affordable, healthy food, but also the quality of the food we get into the winter.”

Food First NL recently published an online paper on local food security.

Fruits and vegetables have risen in price between 9.1 and 10.1 per cent, according to an annual report by the Food Institute at the University of Guelph. This year the study predicts such foods will increase above what would be expected from inflation — some growing out of reach for some people by 4.5 per cent.

With the province producing only about 10 per cent of its fresh vegetables, there’s more reason to be concerned than the fact that we only have several days’ worth of fresh food here at a time and a delayed ferry can result in bare shelves. If the shelves are full, but too expensive, the food is still just as untouchable. And the people who feel the impact of high-priced fruit are the middle and lower classes.

“It’s students. It’s senior citizens. It’s the working poor. It’s new immigrants,” Diana Bronson, executive director of Food Secure Canada, said in a recent Canadian Press article.

There are risks even for foods that are produced in-province and it’s not just produce that feels the pinch.

“It also has this ripple effect,” Jameson says.

The feed that locally raised animals eat often comes from outside the province, so the food that our food eats can be susceptible to price hikes. That would not only affect locally raised meat, but also milk.

“There’s also all of these other elements or players within this broad complex dynamic,” Jameson says.

Besides a floundering loonie — blamed mainly on the low price of oil — there are labour issues and environmental impacts taking place far away from this province that still have a finger on local food prices. Drought in the western U.S. is still affecting the price of beef in local grocery stores, for instance.

Jameson says a lot of planning has to go into building a better local food security network. Infrastructure and support are needed. Even then, people in this province may still be somewhat at the mercy of outside circumstances.

“We will, I think, always be dependent to some level.”


Everybody Eats


Organizations: Food First NL, Food Institute, University of Guelph Food Secure Canada Canadian Press

Geographic location: U.S.

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Recent comments

  • Herry
    January 16, 2016 - 12:28

    Corporate greed, greed, greed !!! The best solution to this rip-off, steal, steal, steal ! It works !!!

  • MIKE
    January 13, 2016 - 17:10

    This is why so many people in Newfoundland are eating JUNK FOOD and have overweight.

  • Bob
    January 13, 2016 - 15:53

    I see a lot of talk on here about milk being healthy.It's a poisonous substance to the human body.Milk should not be consumed and avoided at all costs. Milk doesn't do a body good.

  • Trejay
    January 13, 2016 - 14:53

    And don't even start about what you think you're getting for Miak at those prices! Try Miak in Ontario and them try it here. The stuff here is so watered down it's really water with a hint of milk added. Pathetic and one of the biggest rip-offs next to produce and beef. Prices should be going down on produce as the price of gas goes way down and costs less to ship. There's always an excuse for a Newfoundlander b'y!

  • mainlander
    January 13, 2016 - 13:28

    Bags of milk used to be available in NL. If I am not mistaken, consumers bought the cartons & the bags were not selling so they were discontinued. I buy organic milk in ON and it is still cheaper than what you pay for conventional milk in NL.

  • patricia
    January 13, 2016 - 10:36

    A 2 litre container of milk in our local supermarket here in St,mary's,NL sells for $5.25 outrageous!! I buy mine in St.John's for 2 for $6.99.So much for trying to live healthy and eat vegetables.I ,for one won't be buying them.I pity people with growing children.I have a senior friend who buys most of her groceries at the dollar store,canned and salty.No wonder we are not living as long as other Canadians

  • Dale Sullivan
    January 13, 2016 - 08:56

    Maybe the fourth straight year of drought in California might have something to do with the prices. Some people put a good deal of blame on climate change, but those are just scientists and other alarmists who are familiar with the facts.

  • Ev
    January 13, 2016 - 08:29

    The local farmer will never be able to compete with the huge cooperation of twenty to thirty thousand acre farms. The cost of potatoes, carrots and turnips coming into this Island from the mainland does not leave enough profit for local farms to compete if they want to sell to the large supermarkets. They have to compete with these prices while the stores put 100% to 250% markup on some of these vegetables. Small farmers can not increase their volumes and make a fair return by going through these stores, by keeping volumes low and selling most of their good directly to the consumes, they can make a meager living.

  • Usinger
    January 13, 2016 - 08:09

    And how would local grown food be any cheaper? Marketing Boards would spring up faster than one can imagine. Just look at the price of "LOCAL MIK", we had to move to Ontario for family reasons, 4 ltrs of milk here is $ 3.97, how much is a 2 liter carton inNfld?

    • Wil
      January 13, 2016 - 09:04

      At Walmart in St. John's, a 2 litre is approximately $3.37. That's the cheapest I've seen here. As well, I agree with your comment on these boards. Where's the benefit to the end user?

    • Apples and Oranges
      January 13, 2016 - 10:51

      Your price comparison is inaccurate because, unfortunately, we do not have 4 litre containers available for purchase, but that's a processor decision - not the farmers. A more accurate comparison would be compare our 2L carton (priced at $4.19 at a St. John's grocery store) with a 2L carton priced in a Toronto grocery store at $3.99. Ours is 20 cents more. Your example better shows the problem we have at the processor level, not the farm level. That we are missing out because processors won't supply more affordable packaging options. Farmers have no control over that.