Poor harvests due to climate change, supply chain issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have created food production shortages across the world, with cooking oil being the latest product impacted.
Sylvain Charlebois, Dalhousie University professor of food distribution and policy, told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday that these factors have created the “perfect storm” for worldwide shortages, causing the price of cooking oil to skyrocket over the past six months.
While prices have been impacted at grocery stores, Charlebois says consumers will see the greatest increase when dining out at restaurants.
“I’m hearing from restaurant operators that they’re likely going to see prices triple by the end of this year when it comes to vegetable oil. Food service is a big deal when it comes to vegetable oil in Canada… so don’t be surprised if menu prices are impacted by that,” he said.
Charlebois said consumers should prepare to spend more when dining at restaurants, and budget accordingly.
“I know a lot of people want to go out and should go out and celebrate and live a normal life, but it will cost you more at the restaurant for sure and vegetable oil prices are one of the main reasons unfortunately,” he said.
In addition to climate change, COVID-19 supply chain issues and the war in Ukraine, Indonesia has started restricting exports of palm oil, in a move Charlebois says could make the global food crisis worse and push up the prices of hundreds of products.
Indonesia accounts for 55 per cent of palm oil exports globally, while Ukraine is the largest exporter of sunflower oil in the world.
“We often think about vegetable oil as something we fry with, but when you walk into the grocery store, there’s vegetable oil in everything we buy almost,” he said.
Charlebois said “vegetable oil is a key ingredient around the world” and can be found in foods such as pasta, cookies, chocolate, mayonnaise, and many dry and baked goods.
With restrictions on palm oil and shortages of other cooking oils, Charlebois says companies will be increasing the prices of those goods that contain vegetable oil to offset acquiring costs.
“We’re going to be short vegetable oil, and of course, around the world prices are going to rise unfortunately,” he said.
To help combat this shortage of cooking oils, Charlebois said Canada will be looking to use canola oil as a “bumper crop” this season. However, he says poor weather may stifle this plan.
“There’s not a whole lot of moisture out west right now. Of course in Manitoba there are floods… but if you go to Alberta and Saskatchewan things are pretty dry, which is not great news for canola growers,” he said.
Overall, Charlebois said the outlook is grim and said it is a “good idea” for Canadians to use alternatives to vegetable oils when they can.
“It’s not great and that’s why we wanted to make a statement right now so people can be prepared,” he said.