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Rising food prices: It's no small potatoes

The price of potatoes rose by 20.7 per cent, year over year, in March.

Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

Food prices are flaring up in Canada.

The cost of food picked up to 3.3 per cent in March, much higher than the 2.1-per-cent rate of food inflation a month earlier. The price of food bought from stores rose 3.7 per cent -- the biggest increase in a year and a half.

Factors driving food costs range from bad weather to rising energy prices.

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Prices for fresh vegetables jumped 18.6 per cent "as bad weather in Mexico and the southern United States reduced supply," Statistics Canada said Tuesday. The cost of meat rose 5 per cent "as beef and pork prices increased. Higher prices were also recorded for bakery and cereal products as well as for dairy products."

Canadian companies including Metro and George Weston have said they expect prices to go up this year amid soaring commodity prices. And Tim Hortons recently hiked the price of a cup of coffee.

Food is getting pricier almost everywhere. The United Nations food index soared 25 per cent last year and hit a record in February. The World Bank warned recently that the global economy is "one shock away" from a food crisis.

Here are some of the items with notable year-over-year increases in March:

  • Fresh or frozen pork: 9.3 per cent.

  • Fresh or frozen beef: 6.5 per cent.

  • Ice cream: 4.8 per cent.

  • Bread: 5 per cent.

  • Breakfast cereal: 3.5 per cent.

  • Lettuce: 66.6 per cent.

  • Potatoes: 20.7 per cent.

  • Coffee and tea: 8.2 per cent.

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About the Author

Tavia Grant has worked at The Globe and Mail since early 2005, covering topics from employment and currency markets to trade, microfinance and Latin American economies. She previously worked for Bloomberg News in Toronto and Zurich, writing on mining, stocks, currencies and secret Swiss bank accounts. More

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