Prairie farmer’s share of food bill rises: study

An annual review of an average Winnipeg grocery bill and the farmer’s share of the revenue finds farmers faring slightly better, albeit with a tighter focus on Prairie-grown foods and a wider sample of stores.

The Farmer’s Share, a yearly research project funded by the three Prairie provinces’ general farm organizations, reports that the farmer’s share for vegetables, relative to what the consumer pays, has been “declining gradually” for three years as farmers’ shares for grain and dairy show slight increases.

The farmer’s share for meat and meat alternatives has “risen steadily” since the project began in 2008, which KAP said reflects a gradual rise in the farm price while the consumer cost remained “fairly stable.”

This year, however, Winnipeg consultant Alma Kennedy, who has conducted the annual study since 2008, tightened the criteria to include only items grown in, or processed from items grown in, the three Prairie provinces.

Also, where last year’s study included only groceries priced at various Canada Safeway stores in different parts of Winnipeg, this year’s study expanded to include prices at two additional unnamed grocery chains.

With a total bill of $90.10 for the products studied, the 2011 farmer’s share for different food groups broke down to vegetables, 28 per cent; grains, five per cent; dairy, 55 per cent; and meat/meat alternatives, 41 per cent.

The overall 2011 farmer’s share, Kennedy reported, was 39 per cent, which was slightly higher than in previous years and “reflected the addition of the two grocery chains to the study,” which featured lower prices on certain items.

“Little has changed”

“This year we focused in on specific food items that most consumers buy each week and we eliminated items that were produced outside of the Prairie provinces, such as in the U.S.,” Kennedy said in the ag groups’ release Monday.

“The results show that little has changed since 2010 regarding the cost of groceries and the share the farmer receives, and we believe it was the right time to make changes to the study.”

Prices were gathered from the various grocery stores May 10-11, while farmgate prices were gathered from mid-May to mid-June.

Vegetable items in the study included peas, carrots, onions and potatoes, while grains included cereal, bread and oats, dairy included milk, yogurt and cheese, and the meat group included beef, turkey, eggs, pork, chicken and red kidney beans.

A year-by-year comparison of the four years of data on food costs from Safeway alone found the cost of peas and yogurt rose in 2011; costs for bread, beef, turkey and chicken were lower in 2010 but returned to 2008-09 levels in 2011; and the cost of cheese was high in 2010 but also returned to 2008-09 levels in 2011.

Manitoba’s general farm group, Keystone Agricultural Producers, plans to use the 2011 study results in an ad campaign on Winnipeg city buses between now and Sept. 15, depicting the farmer’s share of a slice of bread.

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