Poor harvests due to climate change, supply chain problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have resulted in food production shortages around the world, with cooking oil being the latest product affected.
Sylvain Charlebois, a professor of food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University, told CTV’s Your Morning on Wednesday that these factors have created the “perfect storm” for global shortages, sending the price of cooking oil skyrocketing over the past six months may be.
While prices at grocery stores have been impacted, Charlebois says consumers will see the biggest increase when eating out at restaurants.
“I’m hearing from restaurateurs that vegetable oil prices are likely to triple by the end of this year. Gastronomy is a big deal when it comes to vegetable oil in Canada … so don’t be surprised if menu prices are affected,” he said.
Charlebois said consumers should be prepared to spend more when dining out and budget accordingly.
“I know a lot of people want to go out and go out and party and live normal lives, but it’s definitely going to cost you more at the restaurant, and vegetable oil prices are unfortunately one of the main reasons,” he said.
Alongside climate change, supply chain problems from COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine, Indonesia has begun restricting palm oil exports, which Charlebois said could exacerbate the global food crisis and push up the prices of hundreds of products.
Indonesia accounts for 55 percent of world palm oil exports, while Ukraine is the world’s largest exporter of sunflower oil.
“We often think of vegetable oil as something we fry with, but if you go to the grocery store, there’s vegetable oil in almost everything we buy,” he said.
Charlebois said that “vegetable oil is a key ingredient around the world” and is found in foods like pasta, biscuits, chocolate, mayonnaise and many dry and baked goods.
With restrictions on palm oil and shortages of other cooking oils, Charlebois said companies will increase the price of goods that contain vegetable oil to offset the cost of the purchase.
“We’re going to run out of vegetable oil and of course, unfortunately, prices are going to go up around the world,” he said.
To combat this shortage of cooking oils, Charlebois said Canada will be looking to use canola oil as a “top crop” this season. However, he says bad weather could choke that plan.
“There isn’t a lot of moisture in the west right now. Of course there’s flooding in Manitoba … but when you go to Alberta and Saskatchewan, things are pretty dry, which isn’t good news for canola growers,” he said.
Overall, Charlebois said the outlook was bleak and that it was a “good idea” for Canadians to use alternatives to vegetable oils when possible.
“It’s not great and that’s why we wanted to make a statement now so people can be prepared,” he said.
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