OTTAWA — On June 13, the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food presented a report to the House of Commons on food price inflation.
The report, entitled “Grocery Affordability: Examining Rising Food Costs in Canada”, is based on testimony from the 58 witnesses the committee heard over nine meetings held between November 2022 and April 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.
The report contains 13 recommendations to the Government of Canada on how it can tackle factors driving food price inflation, 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 Committee recommends that the Government of Canada take the necessary steps to collect and make public data on costs throughout the Canadian agri-food supply chain—including disaggregated data on costs in the primary agriculture, food and beverage processing, and food retail sectors—along the same lines as the information the United States Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service makes available in its Food Dollar Series research program.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada provide additional funding to Indigenous-led initiatives in remote and Northern areas to improve infrastructure that supports the food security of their communities.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, address food waste by:
- investigating how the elimination of “best-before” dates on foods would impact Canadians;
- partnering with non-profit organizations and large food retailers to develop programs to divert food that would otherwise be wasted to Canadians experiencing food insecurity; and
- ensuring its plastic reduction requirements are attainable by extending the implementation timeline for a single-use plastics ban and working with retailers to ensure that commercially viable alternatives to plastics, in particular for packaging designed to extend the shelf-life of food and limit food waste, will be available in the needed quantities.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada directly reimburse farmers and retailers who have paid a 35% tariff on their imports of Russian fertilizer since 2 March 2022 and that it discontinue this tariff going forward.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada support agricultural producers and others in the agri-food industry to mitigate their costs and ensure they have sufficient cash flow during this period of high inflation by:
- ensuring companies have access to short-term, low-cost credit; and
- maintaining the increased threshold for interest-free payments under the Advance Payments Program.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, expedite the implementation of the National Supply Chain Task Force’s recommendations, particularly those that address issues in the agri-food supply chain, including:
- investing in critical transportation infrastructure;
- supporting supply chain digitization;
- addressing chronic labour shortages in the transportation supply chain; and
- establishing a Supply Chain Office, as outlined in Budget 2023, to facilitate a whole-of-government approach to these matters.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada reduce timelines, paperwork, and costs associated with the Temporary Foreign Worker Program by expediting the implementation of the Trusted Employer model that it first proposed in Budget 2022.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada encourage innovation in the agriculture and agri-food sector by:
- launching an incentive and support program for technological innovation and automation, particularly for small and medium-sized firms; and
- devoting specific funding through the Department of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development’s Strategic Innovation Fund to controlled-environment agriculture initiatives, such as those in the greenhouse sector.
The Committee recommends that, if the Competition Bureau finds evidence in its upcoming market study that large grocery chains are generating excess profits on food items, the Government of Canada should consider introducing a windfall profits tax on large, price-setting corporations to disincentivize excess hikes in their profit margins for these items.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada ensure that the reciprocity of standards is respected for imported products, increase inspections to ensure compliance, and require that foreign products meet the same quality standards as domestic products for both environmental standards and labour standards.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada work with the provinces and territories—in partnership with stakeholders from agriculture and the food industry—to implement a mandatory and enforceable grocery code of conduct that covers food and other essential products on grocery store shelves and that it encourage the food industry to review this code one year after it comes into force.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada work with provinces and territories to adopt a standardized approach to unit pricing labelling practices in the grocery sector to assist Canadian consumers in making informed decisions in their purchasing.
The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada strengthen the Competition Bureau’s mandate and its ability to ensure competition in the Canadian grocery sector by:
- implementing legislative changes to the Competition Act that provide the Competition Bureau with the power to compel companies and individuals who are the subject of its market studies to provide it with relevant documents and information, including disaggregated financial data;
- reviewing the competitive thresholds the Competition Bureau uses to evaluate mergers and acquisitions to ensure that competition does not suffer;
- studying the creation of a permanent administrative commission, along the lines of France’s Observatoire de la formation des prix et des marges des produits alimentaires, with a mandate to analyze data relating to price formation and margins in transactions along the agri-food supply chain; and
- considering any conclusions and recommendations the Competition Bureau makes to the federal government in its upcoming market study on the Canadian grocery sector, notably those related to price-setting mechanisms, “black-out” periods, revenue sharing along the agri-food chain, and barriers to entry faced by new firms entering this sector.