A rapid rise in prices for fresh vegetables in December offset slower price growth for other food items and kept overall food inflation high, Statistics Canada reported on Tuesday.

StatsCan inflation numbers showed prices for food rose 11 per cent in December compared with a year ago, slightly down from the 11.4 per cent price growth reported in November.

Fresh vegetable prices rose 13.6 per cent in December after a November increase of 11.2 per cent, the report said, offsetting slower growth in items like non-alcoholic beverages, coffee and tea, bakery products and preserved fruit preparations.

StatsCan attributed the “accelerated price growth” for vegetables to poor weather in growing regions, leading to a 21.9 per cent year-over-year price hike for tomatoes and 11.7 per cent increase for other fresh vegetables.

University of Guelph food economist Michael von Massow said fresh produce like fruit is typically more expensive in the winter in Canada as the country imports it from different climates, with steeper price hikes this year due to a weaker Canadian dollar and higher shipping costs.

The higher price of vegetables largely comes down to increases to the cost of tomatoes and lettuce as rain and disease affects output, Von Massow said.

The overall consumer price index for December rose 6.3 per cent from a year ago, according to Tuesday’s report.

Food price growth has hovered around 11 per cent for the last five months, StatsCan reported.

The difference comes down to a “perfect storm” of economic impacts that affect food differently than other goods, von Massow said, including the war in Ukraine that is continuing to affect grain prices. Another major factor is extreme weather events like drought, floods and rain that impact crops.

“Weather will have less impact on televisions, gasoline and those sorts of things. Climate change and extreme weather are starting to affect individual prices,” he said.

While prices are still high, von Massow said he sees some sources of optimism in the report, as the numbers are getting “more reasonable,” and some items like butter, coffee and tea dropped in price in December despite still being more expensive than the year before.

Prices could come down in the spring, he said, as Canadian-grown produce picks up, and inflation generally shows signs of slowing down.

“We’re not going to see immediate relief, but I think in sort of three to six months we might start seeing things happen,” he said. “The pressure might come off a little bit.”