Grocery Prices—Can we hope for a lull?

Published: 21 August 2023

Although grocery prices continue to rise at a higher rate than inflation, they slowed in July, according to Statistics Canada, and some items are currently on the shelves at the same price as they were in February, La Presse found.

But this summer "respite" could be short-lived, warns agronomist and economist Pascal Thériault, Director of McGill's Farm Management and Technology program. And it's important to remember that grocery bills remain high, he says.

"Even if it were to come down a bit, we won't go back to pre-pandemic price levels. We've been through so many huge increases that even if we had a 5% reduction, it would still be higher than what we paid last year."

Back in February 2023, price freezes on 1,500 no-name brand products sold at Maxi, Provigo and Pharmaprix ended. The period during which retailers did not accept price increases from their suppliers also came to an end. From the second week of February onwards, customers in the grocery aisles quickly noticed prices climbing again.

But La Presse has found that many prices did not increase thereafter, from the end of February to mid-August.

Pascal Thériault said he wasn't surprised finding. "We don't seem to be having any problems with transport logistics, and energy costs seem to be stabilizing. It's summer, so if you look at groceries in general, it's easier - even if we're having a very bad harvest year in Quebec - to get local fruits and vegetables, which helps temper fresh produce prices. I think this stabilization of prices is normal. Consumers have made choices. They've abandoned the restaurant because it's become so expensive. There are products they won't buy any more, or even less often, in grocery stores. That's going to reduce demand for those products, and that's going to have an impact on the price."

"Is this a temporary lull?" asks Pascal Thériault. "It's going to depend on the autumn and winter we have."

Read more from La Presse or listen to Paul Arcand interview Dr. Thériault on his morning show (in French).

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