The Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food has presented recommendations to the federal government on how it can tackle food inflation in a new report.
Grocery Affordability: Examining Rising Food Costs in Canada, released Tuesday (June 13), contains 13 recommendations, including strengthening data collection on price formation throughout the supply chain and addressing financial challenges faced by farmers and food processors.
It also recommends actions to address challenges related to relations and competition in the food supply chain, notably the implementation of a mandatory and enforceable code of conduct for the sector and strengthening the Competition Bureau’s powers.
The report is based on testimony from the 58 witnesses the committee heard over nine meetings held between Nov. 21, 2022 and April 17, 2023. These included representatives from civil society groups as well as stakeholders from the following sectors: primary production, food and beverage processing and food retail – including representatives from Canada’s three largest grocery companies (Loblaw, Empire and Metro).
“Food price inflation affects a fundamental aspect of Canadians' lives: their ability to feed themselves adequately,” the report reads. “While driven in part by global factors, such as rising input and fuel costs, relationships in the food supply chain have a major influence on how prices are transmitted along the supply chain and ultimately to the consumer. As the primary source of food for many Canadians and the primary sale outlet for many producers and processors, the grocery sector plays a critical role in these relationships. This study highlights the need to increase transparency in the grocery sector and to strengthen its collaboration with other supply chain actors to ensure fairness in the business relations between each link in the chain. The federal government has an important coordinating role to play with these groups and with its provincial and territorial partners on this matter. Government support is also key to help the entire agriculture and agri-food sector deal with the risks that this inflationary period poses to business and to the food security of Canadians.”
In a statement, the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) said it is encouraged by the report, but cautioned against increased government intervention in the food retail business.
“It is a multilayered and dynamic business that works well for Canadian consumers, jobs and investment – and there is no evidence to suggest that prescriptive government intervention would do anything to lower food prices for Canadians,” RCC said.
However, the organization agreed with the report’s acknowledgement that there are many causes of worldwide food inflation.
“The report also notes expert opinion agreeing with what we have said throughout: that there is no ‘greedflation’ in Canada's grocery sector,” RCC said. “The committee declined to offer any evidence that grocers are profiting from food inflation. In fact, the very opposite is true – grocers work daily to provide food to Canadians at the lowest prices possible.”