Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sign of the Times

 I had a Gordie Howe hat trick at the market yesterday:

  A goal, an assist and a fight.

  We met our goal of selling all the sweet corn we had picked that morning. I assisted a lady who had locked her keys in her car. I also had a discussion with a man and agreed to disagree about our allegedly high prices.

  Anyone who runs their own small business will have an unwanted familiarity with certain customers kvetching about prices.

  Big business is protected by many layers of staff from complaints. The clerk at Petro Canada doesn't give a fig about the disconnect between the price of West Texas crude and the pump price, so no one bothers unloading on them. You might as well argue with the gas pump.

  However, when someone spots the price maker in their cross-hairs, things can get heated.

  In my own case, our price for squash is ten cents higher than last year. The customer suggested that there should be no increase due to lower fuel prices, which represent about five per cent of my costs. He parted with the argument that the increased use of food banks was all the proof he needed of extortionately high food prices in Ontario.

  A little context......

  In 1962, my father bought a fifty acre farm in North Markham Township with a partner for $24,000.
After closing, the partner got cold feet and wanted his share back. My dad paid him and left the "For Sale" sign posted.

  No one called. Not a single offer for five years, until, in 1967, he got an offer for $27,000, which he accepted.

  An apples-to-apples fifty acre farm across the road just sold last year for $2,700,000; a price one hundred times greater than the 1967 price.

  There is a sign up on the wall in our market dating from the mid 1960's. I found it while demolishing an old drive shed on Elmer Harding's farm at Birchmount Road and Steeles Avenue. The farm has long since been blanketed by housing.

  "Sweet Corn 35 cents per dozen. $ 1.00 for 3 dozen"

  It is, of course, laughable cheap by today's standards and a lot of people joke about buying our corn for that price.

  Let's assume for a moment that sweet corn at 35 cents per dozen had seen an increase similar to that of raw land. That would make the 2016 sign read:

  "Sweet Corn $35 per dozen. $ 100 dollars for 3 dozen.

  I am not the first person to make the case for the fact that the higher price of food that is not leading to increased food bank use as much as it is the exponential rise in the price of housing. My argument is an oversimplification but it merits some consideration.

  In 1969, about 20 per cent of the average consumer's take home pay went for food. That figure in 2016 is about 10 per cent. Even the poorest one-fifth of Canada's population spends about 14 per cent on food, less than half the 30 per cent they spend on accommodation.(Terry Daynard; blog, Jan. 10, 2016)

  Meanwhile, the price for a detached home in Toronto has reached million dollar territory, making the dream of actually owning such a house unattainable for most home buyers. Those high prices may not last, but, realistically, how much would they fall in the event of a correction?

  Food in Canada ( unless you live in the far north) is still a bargain, and the fact that we live in a country where food is safe, fresh and widely available means that most Canadians have already won the global food lottery.

  Keeping his stick on the ice,


  P.S. Using that 100 multiplier for gasoline means that an Imperial gallon of gas that sold in 1969 for 35 cents per gallon  (1 Imperial gallon= 4.54 litres) would now cost $7.70 per litre!

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