Who, What, Why: Why does a cabbage cost $28 in Canada?
Would you pay C$28 (US$27; £18) for a cabbage? $65 for a bag of chicken? $100 for 12 litres of water? That’s not the cost of a meal at a world-class restaurant, but the price of basic foodstuffs at supermarkets in the territory of Nunavut, in northern Canada.
Residents in Iqaluit, the territorial capital, and Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet and Igloolik, and sympathisers in the national capital, Ottawa, have been protesting in a bid to raise awareness of the high cost of food in remote communities. So why is their food so expensive?
Nunavut is as large as Western Europe and covers most of the Canadian Arctic, with a population of more than 30,000, mostly Inuit. Its harsh, northern climate means there is no agricultural industry.
- The Arctic climate means there is no local agriculture industry
- All fresh produce has to be flown in daily, or less often in more remote communities
- Stores have higher running costs
Prior to the arrival of Europeans, indigenous people in the area survived by hunting, fishing and gathering. But lifestyle changes mean local people are now reliant on imported food. And for most of the year, these communities are only accessible by air.
“We don’t have any roads or railways from the south so all goods have to be flown up every day,” says Madeleine Redfern, mayor of the capital, Iqaluit. “Fresh produce, milk, bread is delivered here daily, and less frequently in smaller communities further away.”
Michael McMullen, vice president for the northern Canada division of the North West Company, which runs 132 stores in remote Canadian communities, says getting food into stores in the north can cost 11 times more than it does in the south of the country.