The issue of food prices or food inflation is on everyone's mind as they wander through the grocery store trying to feed their family while trying to stay within their budget.
Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is a professor and director at the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.
He's known as the food professor and took part in a fireside chat during the Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities Annual Convention this week.
The Agri-Food Analytics Lab says Canadians could see a five to seven per cent spike in food prices in 2023.
Dr Sylvain Charlebois says it's tough, we're still looking at several months of higher food prices until at least July or August when he expects the food inflation rate to drop somewhat.
"Lots of people who don't necessarily appreciate what's happening in the food industry will just complain. I must say as Canadians we've been spoiled. I mean, we're lucky. We spend about nine per cent of our household budget on food. Which is the fifth lowest percentage in the world."
He noted that the political theatre Canadians saw in Ottawa last week had people pointing the finger at the major grocers.
"I met all three, they're nice people. Galen Weston from Loblaw, Michael Medline from Sobeys, and Eric La Fleche from Metro all three find individuals. Frankly, I actually think that all three companies are well-managed, but they're also misunderstood. When you look at margins, the last six, seven years, they've been pretty consistent. However, and this is a big however, operational margins in Canada for groceries are double what they are in the US. So if you look at Kroger or Albertsons, it's double in Canada. So it's been cozy for them, there's no competition, there's not enough competition. When you don't have competition for consumers, while it tends to push prices higher for farmers, for processors, fewer options. That's why I've always recognized that even though there's no evidence of greed, inflation or abuse, we do have a problem when it comes to how much power a company like Loblaw has. I mean, Loblaw is incredibly powerful, it's the largest private employer in the country, they employ 250,000 people. Most people don't know that, but it's a massive organization with two big labels, no name and President's Choice, they can kill and make companies literally. So if you're doing business with Loblaws, tomorrow they can just pull the plug."
He says it's amazingly powerful, and he feels it needs to be lessened a little bit, so we can actually give a chance to everyone else across this food chain to survive and compete right now.
There's a lot of misunderstanding from consumers when they see the increased cost at the grocery store, for products like beef, not knowing all the aspects as to why that is.
Charlebois says research is being done to show the public just how the costs actually break down, what farmers actually receive, as well as the share for processors and grocers.