‘You can’t really do anything’: Manitoba shoppers brace for possibility of second milk price hike

Dairy farmers in Manitoba say the pandemic, drought, flood, and the war in Ukraine have left them scrambling to make ends meet – prompting a call for a rare mid-year price hike on milk. It’s a move some Winnipeg shoppers are concerned will be yet another blow to their rising grocery bill.

David Wiens, chair of the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, says farmers are struggling.

“We’ve been experiencing a lot of volatility over the past, I would say about a year especially, having come out of the pandemic,” he said. “We had a drought, floods this spring, and to top it off, war in Ukraine, and all of those things are impacting milk prices.”

He said farmers are seeing their input costs rising, with price of fertilizer up 44 per cent, the price of fuel up 32 per cent, and the price of feed up eight per cent.

“We’re feeling it on the farm,” Wiens said. “It becomes increasingly difficult to make all ends meet.”

It’s prompted the Dairy Farmers of Canada to make a rare request – a mid-year price hike.

The Canadian Dairy Commission said it received the request for an increase to the farm gate price of milk. The price already rose six cents per litre in February. Though prices are usually reviewed only once a year, the industry lobby group said its seeking the price hike due to inflation.

Wiens said the farm gate price does not necessarily correlate with the price shoppers see at the grocery store.

“Exactly how it will impact retail prices can’t be known with any precision at this point,” Wiens told CTV News.

However, the request is not sitting well with Munther Zied, the owner and manager of the grocery chain Food Fare.

“I think that’s insane. I’m trying to justify it in my mind of why these increases are happening,” he said. “Prices are already high as it is. Milk, a four-litre jug, is ridiculously priced.”

He said while some stores try to lower the price of milk to bring in customers, it is ultimately the consumer that will be paying if the increase is approved.

“With the price of milk the way it is, I mean people are actually looking at alternate milks right now. Whether it be the soy milk, or whatever,” he said. “But even that’s going up. With everything going on in this world, it’s causing costs to go up ridiculously.”

In a statement to CTV News, the Retail Council of Canada said it doesn’t know yet what dairy farmers’ input cost pressures will be to substantiate the demand for a second increase this year.

“Regardless, this points to another example of how retailers continue to face multiple price increases and/or demands from suppliers which is the primary reason why consumers’ grocery costs are increasing,” the statement reads.

For some resigned grocery shoppers in Winnipeg, the news of another price hike is not surprising.

“It sort of runs up the chain. If milk producers have to increase their costs, it is going to go up the chain to consumers. You can’t really do anything,” grocery shopper Val told CTV News while walking out of the Downtown Family Foods store on Wednesday. She said a price hike in milk would be just one more expense added to an already expensive cost of living.

“Everything else is going up, why not that too?” said Andrew, who had just picked up a carton of milk at the grocery store on Wednesday.

Andrew said he’s noticed his grocery bill has been getting higher recently, and he’s concerned.

“I think everybody is. You’d have to pretty blind not to see what is going on and how it is affecting everybody,” he said. “I don’t think there is a lot the average person can do. Do your best, try to save where you can.”

The request called for the increase to take effect at the beginning of September. The commission will be consulting stakeholders about the request from June 12 to 15, and will announce its decision in the following days.

-with files from the Canadian Press 

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