Field Agent Canada conducted a cross-country price survey on fluid milk prices at 171 retailers in 18 markets from coast-to-coast between June 12th to 18th, 2018. The survey compared prices recorded in the past week with prices collected at the same outlets back in October 2014 to highlight any shifts that have taken place over that period.
While we did see quite a few price changes for milk, the one thing that did not change was the huge differences in the price Canadians are paying for one of the most basic grocery items – 2% Milk.
“With the on-going criticism of Canada’s supply management system by the Trump administration in the US, we wanted to allow Canadians to see how Canada’s system of provincial production quotas is affecting their pocketbook.” says Jeff Doucette, General Manager of Field Agent Canada.
Additionally, we looked at prices for milk at Walmart stores in six border communities in the US to provide a comparative benchmark of the cost of similar products in the larger US market.
The least expensive city to purchase milk in Canada is Sudbury, Ontario. “In 2014 the Sudbury market was quite competitive and it has now landed in the number one spot despite being a smaller market in Northern Ontario.” said Doucette.
The most expensive city to purchase milk in Canada was St. John’s, Newfoundland. “Although average prices in St. John’s have come down 5.6% since our 2014 survey, this market is by far the most expensive.” exclaimed Doucette. “A small, closed milk market and the use of smaller 2L containers vs. 4L containers in the rest of Canada are hitting Newfoundlanders in the pocket book.”
In fact, all four Atlantic provinces are paying the high prices for 2% milk with prices being 15 – 48% higher than the Canadian average.
Where is the cheapest overall milk in Canada? If you live in Ontario and you are a Costco member you are in luck. Costco stores in Ontario sell 4L packages of milk for $4.25/L, most likley keeping overall prices in Ontario lower.
Looking across the border we see that prices for 1 Gallon (3.78L) packages of Great Value milk at Walmart stores close to the Canadian border are consistently cheaper than in Canada, even after adjusting for package size and foreign exchange. The lowest price for a 4L equivalent package was in Amherst, NY (near Buffalo) was $2.22 (CAD), almost half the price at Costco in Ontario.
“Canadians are paying more for milk than they would if the marketplace was truly an open market.” stated Doucette. “If trade barriers between provinces were broken down, we could have a more efficient system, although the smaller production systems in smaller provinces would likely be consolidated into larger systems in Central Canada.”
“A consolidated, more efficient, national milk production system may be a necessary evil in order to ensure that Canada’s dairy industry is competitive with a much larger system in the United States over the long term and delivers better value to Canadian consumers.”
General Manager, Field Agent Canada