Study finds the price of groceries in Canada has increased 240 percent in 20 years

Despite high food inflation caused by the pandemic, there is still some good news for bargain hunters. According to Statistics Canada, there are a few products priced almost the same as they were 20 years ago.

Since, the 1960’s Statistics Canada has published retail prices for a consumers’ grocery basket. Based on those stats, Dalhousie University’s AgriFood Analytics Lab has recently published a study of grocery price increases over the past 20-year period. Their finding is that since the year 2000, a typical grocery basket in Canada has increased by about 240 percent.

However, there are a few food items that have bucked that trend. Wheat-based flour has increased by just 38 percent, and in that same period peanut butter is only about 5 percent more expensive, but one very common grocery items stands out. White sugar in Canada is close to the same price now as 20 years ago-- about $2.50 for a five pound bag.

Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, director of the AgriFood Analytics Lab, says that the lack of price movement in refined white sugar has to do with Canada’s market policies.

“White sugar is basically priced the same as twenty years ago. It has a lot to do with trade policies that we have. The Canadian market is actually quite an open market when compared to the American market or the European market,” Dr. Charlebois said.

The Canadian market is open to foreign sugar importers. Conversely, there are only three domestic-based sugar producers: Redpath based in Toronto, Lantic in Montreal, and Western Canada’s Rogers. Regardless of where the sugar producers is based, here in Canada sugar is based on the world price.

“The price of sugar domestically is set based on world market prices, and those prices are typically very low as well,” Dr. Charlebois said. “Companies outside of Canada can actually come in, and that’s why you have so few players, Redpath, Lantic in Montreal, and Rogers out west. It’s a very open market, and very competitive, which allowed Canadians to have access to cheap sugar.”