The cost of food went up this past year but not all of the increase returned to the farmer.
Canadians paid $4.69 more for a standard weekly basket of groceries between 2009 and 2010. Farmers captured $4.12 of that increase, according to a survey sponsored by the three major Prairie farm groups.
That’s a lot better than last year, when a similar survey found consumer grocery costs rose $6.01 but the farmer’s share actually fell by 86 cents.
Overall, though, farmers in Canada this year received less than 30 cents out of every consumer food dollar spent, just as they have done for the past three years, according to the survey.
This demonstrates that farmers generally do not benefit from high food prices and a profitable value chain, said Ian Wishart, Keystone Agricultural Producers president.
“The rest of it actually goes through the rest of the chain right from the processor to the retail side of things,” Wishart said.
“Everybody else is doing very well in the food chain, thank you very much, but the primary producer isn’t.”
The survey by retired University of Manitoba food nutritionist Alma Kennedy was sponsored by KAP, Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan and Wild Rose Agricultural Producers of Alberta.
KAP, WRAP and APAS announced the survey results at separate news conferences Sept. 15.
It’s the third straight year for the survey, which tracks retail prices for a week’s worth of selected groceries for a family of four.
The total grocery bill before taxes this year was $198.95. Vegetables and fruits took up 44 per cent of the money. The rest was spent on grain products (16 per cent), dairy (15 per cent) and meat (25 per cent).
Kennedy found the overall cost of the food basket increased 3.7 per cent from 2009 to 2010. That compares to 3.2 per cent in the previous year.
The farmer’s average share of the consumer price in 2010 was 27.1 per cent, up slightly from 26 per cent in 2009 and 27 per cent in 2008.
The amount of the producer’s share varies with the commodity. Farmers received 28.4 per cent of the cost of vegetables, 51.1 per cent for dairy, 25.1 per cent for meat and just 4.3 per cent for grain products.
Wishart was hard-pressed when asked by reporters how farmers can increase their share.
“If I had to answer to that one, I’d certainly be doing something completely different from what I am now.”
One answer is to give shoppers more opportunity to buy Canadian-grown products and make it easier to identify them on supermarket shelves, said Wishart.
Another is to improve efficiencies in the value chain which translate back to the producer. That way consumers wouldn’t have to pay more in order to improve farmers’ returns, he said.
Yet another is to ensure that Canadian products don’t have to compete unfairly with lower-priced imports that aren’t always produced to the same standards, Wishart said.
Farmers are actually losing ground in their search for a bigger slice of the food dollar, according to Wishart. He said the producer’s share 10 years ago was 40 per cent higher than it is now.
Unless measures are taken, imports will continue to crowd out Canadian products and farmers’ returns will shrink even more, he warned.
“If you want us to be around in the long term and producing the quality products that you clearly want, then you have to support us now,” said Wishart.
“If we aren’t in business in Canada with a particular product, then your only choice is to import it from somewhere else. And when you do that, it’s almost for sure going to cost more.” [email protected]
“Everybodyelseisdoingvery wellinthefoodchain…but theprimaryproducerisn’t.”
– IAN WISHART, KAP