Statistics Canada reported that the country’s annual inflation rate cooled from 6.8% in November to a still-bonkers 6.3% last month for its lowest level in almost a year. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at your grocery bill.
Food prices climbed by 11% year-over-year in December, according to StatsCan, and while that isn’t quite as bad as the rate recorded the month before, reports of sky-high prices from disgruntled shoppers continue to pour in.
The latest outrageous food price generating attention just so happens to be one of Canada’s best-known products: maple syrup. This is something that most of us can remember costing just a few bucks for a bottle unless you were perusing a tacky souvenir shop.
But one Toronto shopper spotted some of the sappy sweet stuff marked at $14.99 in a local supermarket where it had been $6.99 just seven months earlier.
Toronto realtor Yossi Kaplan shared the price comparison via Twitter, calling out both Loblaws and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to end the madness, and noting that the two photos show a price increase of 114% in little more than half a year.
I BEG YOUR PARDON @LoblawsON @JustinTrudeau:
May 2022: $6.99
Jan 2023: $14.99
x2.14 or 114% Increase in seven months.
FYI @siomoCTV @blogTO @TheBeaverton pic.twitter.com/SqnurPyXku
— Yossi Kaplan, MBA 🇨🇦 (@yossikaplan) January 16, 2023
Kaplan tells blogTO that “Queen and Portland is my home Loblaws. My neighbours, my friends, everyone on King West, we all go to that Loblaws.”
“Many of us, every day, just walk through the store, so some things are noticeable,” says Kaplan.
On a recent visit to the Loblaws, he says he saw a family staring into the freezer section “in shock,” and another man with more or less the same reaction looking through the coffee aisle.
Frustrated by his once-enjoyable trips to the Loblaws being hampered by rising food costs, Kaplan shared the tweet of the two very different price tags on Sunday, January 15, and returned to the store on Tuesday, confirming that the maple syrup was still priced at $14.99.
If Kaplan’s introduction of “I beg your pardon,” sounds familiar, it is a reference to a viral tweet from CTV Queen’s Park reporter Siobhan Morris from early January, which started a media firestorm with a photo of a pack of Loblaws chicken breasts priced at a ridiculous $37.03.
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Morris’ tweet was just one of many unwelcome surprises to come out of grocery aisles in recent weeks, as prices leave shoppers so entirely dumbfounded that all they can do is pull out their phones and share their shellshock with the world.
Even just lining up at the check-out has become as anxiety-provoking as checking your credit card statement after a month of splurges, and many have chosen to take their anger out on the wealthy grocery tycoons that profit off our collective suffering.
A particularly popular target for internet trolling and blatant theft has been Canadian business magnate Galen Weston Jr., who heads the massive grocery and real estate empire, George Weston Limited.
The 49-year-old billionaire nepo baby-slash-grocery oligarch has become public enemy number one for anyone struggling to get by, while other major grocers have quietly reaped the profits without facing any real backlash.
But when it comes to maple syrup, there is another group at play here in the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, otherwise known as the maple syrup cartel (I swear this is a thing).
Known by its French acronym (or initialism for comment section warriors) of FPAQ, the so-called cartel controls the vast majority of Canadian and global supply of the sweet stuff and has the ability to use supply and demand to affect prices similar to OPEC’s grip on petroleum reserves.
The cartel has broken several of its own production records in the years since 2019, but demand is still through the roof. So much so, that the FPAQ had to release a staggering 50 million pounds of the stuff from its strategic reserves to meet the global thirst for the delicious tree goo.
The organization’s director of communications, Joël Vaudeville, tells blogTO that the FPAQ “is not responsible for the increase in the price of maple syrup.”
Vaudeville says that “on the contrary, the marketing agreement currently in force which prescribes the value of maple syrup by the pound is lower than the inflation that we have experienced in recent years.”
He claims that “the assistance granted by the federal government allows our organization to continue its efforts to promote maple syrup internationally, promotion that is useful for the entire industry, but also for Canada.”
“For the year 2022, the production of maple syrup has contributed more than a billion dollars to the GDP in addition to creating and maintaining 12,000 jobs,” says Vaudeville.
Despite its apparent power over the global supply, the maple syrup industry is still regularly subsidized with federal investments, including a recent $1.76 million investment for the two years spanning 2021-2023.
But whoever people choose to direct their rage at, the general public sentiment seems clearly aligned on the issue of grocery profits — and alleged profiteering — regardless of where people sit on the political spectrum.