'Our risk is super high': Expensive year for farmers could translate to higher grocery costs

If you think groceries have become more expensive recently, get ready for more sticker shock. According to Alberta farmers, they’re currently putting in the most expensive crops they’ve ever seeded, and the price increase will undoubtedly be passed along to consumers.

“This year our biggest concerns are rising costs. So our crop inputs are probably twice to two and a half times what they were this time last year,” said Scott Jespersen of Blue J. Farms Ltd. west of Edmonton.

Supply chain issues are driving up the price of fertilizer and pesticide, and making parts for equipment difficult to find.

Jespersen, who has been farming all his life, is currently seeding his crops for the year.

“We don’t even know if we’re going to have all the products we need,” he told CTV News Edmonton on Monday.

“We have rising costs on fuel, and oil, and gas. We have carbon taxes, and we’re also coming out of one of the most difficult years from last year from the drought.”

He said he’s never seen a year like 2022.

“This is the most expensive year that I’ve ever seeded a crop,” he said.

And while he said the year is off to a reasonable start, a summer of bad weather could make or break his crops.

“Our risk is super high. That’s a concern. We can’t really afford to have something go wrong, so we’re hoping the weather cooperates.”

All of this will add up to higher prices at the grocery store, according to Jespersen.

“I think it’s going to be tough, food prices are going to go up for sure. It has to. Our costs are going up, there’s supply chain issues, so there are shortages, and you’re just going to see food prices go up in the grocery store.”

According to industry advocates, it’s not just the conditions locally that could impact prices. The war in Ukraine could also be a factor.

“People don’t realize that Russia and Ukraine combined account for roughly one-third of all wheat exports in the world,” said Tom Steve of the Alberta Wheat Commission. “And so an interruption in that flow of grain is causing customers, especially of Ukraine, to try to find other sources.”

Steve said that new numbers from Statistics Canada show that many Canadian farmers may look at planting wheat this year to meet some of that demand.

“Last week Statistics Canada released their forecasts for seeded acreage in Canada, and it did show an increase in wheat acres by seven per cent.”

“It’s a staple crop, it’s a little bit less expensive to grow than canola, and that may be the reason that we’re seeing some renewed interest in growing wheat this year.”

Back on the farm, Jespersen is trying to stay optimistic.

“It’s always challenging, and farmers are pretty resilient, we’re pretty good at navigating all the different issues,” he said.

“We’re always optimistic, but you never know.” 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Joe Scarpelli.