Amid record profits, Loblaw CEO warns food prices will continue to rise

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Maritimers grappling with rising food prices are being warned it’s about to get worse.

For 87-year-old Sydney, N.S., resident Bernie Larusic, keeping his refrigerator full has been a challenge.

“We’re at a plateau that’s way above what we can afford and people are suffering over that,” said Larusic.

It comes as Loblaw’s revenue increased by about 10 per cent in the last quarter and a profit of more than half a billion dollars.

“I think people have a right to feel a little bit skeptical, but it’s very hard to know exactly what’s contributing to these higher food prices,” said Phoebe Stevens, an assistant professor of food security and sustainable agriculture at Dalhousie University.

Canada’s biggest grocer says food costs could increase this year and they have more than 1,000 supplier requests for significant cost increases.

Stevens says markets that are heavily concentrated tend to see higher retail prices for consumers.

“When we look at the grocery retail industry in Canada, 80 per cent is controlled by about five companies, so it is heavily concentrated, suggesting that these companies might have control over prices more so than is desirable,” said Stevens.

But one expert is defending the grocery chains and says the producers that supply grocers should be looked at.

“Are they sort of increasing prices more than warranted? I would expect the Competition Bureau to be on it, but I don’t know to what extent they have been on it anymore,” said Dave Chetan, economist at University of Alberta.

Statistics Canada said this week that butter prices soared 19.1 per cent with bread prices close behind, followed by the cost of eggs, and fresh or frozen chicken.

“I don’t mind anyone making a profit — that’s business — but if the term ‘gouging’ gets into there, then that’s mean spirited,” said Larusic.

Members of parliament have summoned the heads of Canada’s largest grocery store chains to answer for rising food prices.

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