High food prices spark interest in community gardens
It’s been a busy summer at Bouffe-Action community garden in Rosemont, Montreal, and André is just one of many new faces in the crowd.
“We’ve had 30 per cent more enquiries and 20% more participants this summer,” says the project manager Dominique Lacroix.
Growing one’s own food has always had its appeal – but the recent spike in interest is also clearly linked to the economic downturn and rising price of food.
Canada’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) reports a 2.7% increase in the price of food between September 2008 and 2009 – with bigger hikes reported for meat (2.6%), fish (8.8%), eggs and dairy (2.5%); sugar (8.7%) and restaurant meals (2.8%).
During the same period decreases were reported in other areas – most dramatically in energy costs. This was reflected in a 1.8% drop in the accommodation costs; a 7.2% decrease in transport costs; and a 23% drop in gas prices.
This downward pressure resulted in a 0.9% overall decrease in the CPI – but if energy costs are removed from the calculation, the CPI registers a 1.3% increase, attributed mostly to rising food costs.
Although the recession has cut into retail sales - a 5.8% drop between January 2008 and January 2009 - supermarkets actually reported a 7% hike in sales during the same period, and one of Canada’s biggest chains, Metro Inc, has been reporting record profits in 2009.
Facts & figures
• An average grocery basket costs more in Quebec than in any other provinces, due in part to greater concentration in the province’s food distribution system and the relative scarcity of large discount grocery stores.
• Since 2002 – food prices have risen by 24% in Quebec, compared to 21% in Ontario.
• An unusually higher percentage of Quebec’s grocery stores, about 65%, are small and medium-sized businesses, many of them family-owned.
The global picture
• In the days preceding October 16, World Food Day, General Jacques Diouf, the Director General of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, urged the international community to intensify its efforts to alleviate world hunger.
• The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 1.02 billion people are undernourished around the world.
• One in six people is living with hunger, more people than at any time since 1970.
• 32 countries required aid for food emergencies in the past year.
• As of October 16, the UN’s World Food Program needed US $ 6.7 billion to meet global demand but had received only about US $2.9 billion.
Statistics Canada; Cyberpresse, Aug 6 2009; La Presse Affaires, June 29; L’Actualité, May 15: UN World Food Program