Lower loonie drives up food cost

Food prices are going loony, and the loonie is to blame.

Opting for healthier food is already leaving your wallet empty, and it’s about to get worse — at least this time of year.

But with the right planning, dodging the price hit is possible.

With the Canadian dollar's decline, the cost of fruit could go up by five per cent. (Amal Ahmed/ Ryersonian Staff)

With the Canadian dollar’s decline, the cost of fruit could go up by five per cent. (Amal Ahmed/ Ryersonian Staff)

“The fallen dollar has affected food prices and will continue to affect particularly fruit and vegetables,” said Mike von Massow, a business and economics professor at the University of Guelph.

“That’s because those are the main products we import from the U.S. this time of year, especially with snow on the ground.”

The low value of the dollar improves Canada’s exports, but by similar reasoning, goods that Canada imports from the U.S. will be more expensive.

According to an annual forecast by the University of Guelph’s Food Institute, the cost of fruits and vegetables were expected to rise up to three per cent this year.

But with the Canadian dollar’s decline, the cost of fruit could go up by five per cent, and vegetables by up to seven per cent.

“It’s hard being a student (and) hard enough to afford healthy food,” von Massow, one of the authors of the forecast, said.

“We may see some people having to buy less of those products or simply give them up.”

But von Massow said the average Canadian usually has a little buffer in their budget.

The slight increase of costs shouldn’t affect their spending habits.

When it comes to lunch, he suggested taking time to plan and think about meals. Coming prepared with a lunch can help save a few bucks.
“Basic food skills can protect people from price increases,” von Massow said.

Choosing products that are stored, as opposed to newly imported, can be much easier on the wallet,” von Massow said.

“Since carrots are usually warehoused, it’s a great option this time of year because it allows you to still have fresh vegetables without being expensive.”

Managing inventories is another way students can dodge the high price wave.

“Choosing the brown banana first before the red bright apple is a great way to start,” he said.

Instead of shopping once a week, which then leaves a big opportunity for food to rot, he advised shopping twice a week.

“Don’t miss the student discount at some grocery stores,” von Massow said.

“The extra 10 to 15 per cent you receive can save you the price increase of the products.”

Though food prices are increasing because of the low value of the loonie, it’s “unlikely that currency exchange will have a direct effect on tuition,” said Ryerson economics professor Debapriya Sen.

If anything, the declining loonie is making it more affordable for international students to pursue education in Canada.

According to von Massow, come spring, Canada will once again have the weather to start growing its own produce and prices can be expected to lower.
Save your loonies by using your Student I.D. at restaurants around campus:

This story also appeared in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Feb. 25, 2015.

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