Grocery stores may close if labor, product shortages worsen: experts – National

Grocery stores are struggling with rising labor and product shortages that could threaten Canada’s food security, experts say.

Employee absence due to sick leave and COVID-19 Protocols have hit about 30 percent in some stores and continue to rise, Gary Sands, senior vice president of public policy at the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, said Tuesday.

Without access to rapid testing in many provinces, he said workers are repeatedly forced to isolate for a week or more after an exposure to COVID-19.

If the situation worsens, some grocery stores will not be able to stay open, threatening food security in rural and remote areas that rely on a single independent grocery store, Sands said.

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“If we keep sending people home, at some point the stores will not be able to function,” he said. “We are very frustrated by the lack of fast test kits for merchants.”

Health Canada has made some rapid test kits available directly to companies in critical sectors, including the food industry, with 200 or more employees.

But many independent grocery stores do not meet this threshold, which puts these sets out of reach, Sands said.

Yet many merchants also cannot achieve rapid testing through provinces, he said.

“Independent grocers are in a myriad of communities in this country where there is no other grocery store,” Sands said. “If these stores close, you have a food security problem.”

Meanwhile, stores are also experiencing shortages of goods due to supply chain problems, including shortages of truck drivers, packaging and processing delays and the Canadian winter.

Merchants rely on “just in time” delivery, which means that even temporary problems such as bad weather can cause delays and shortages, said Retail Council spokeswoman Michelle Wasylyshen.

Still, empty shelves in some supermarkets should only be temporary, she said, noting that retailers are exploring all avenues to get products to stores as quickly as possible.

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However, some supply chain problems may become longer-lasting, such as the shortage of truck drivers intensified by the federal government’s new vaccine mandate.

Click to play video: 'Truck driver vaccine mandate will further strain food supply chains'

The Trucker vaccine mandate will further strain the food supply chains

The Trucker vaccine mandate will further strain the food supply chains

“The problem of hauliers being vaccinated is causing some delays, especially with the delivery of California fruits and vegetables,” Sands said.

“Merchants in central Canada mostly report delays of a few weeks, but in the West the shortage appears to be more significant.”

In some cases, Sands said merchants are missing nearly 40 percent of their usual stock of a range of products.

“Especially in the West, some merchants say the situation is as bad as it was in the spring of 2020 in terms of supply,” he said.

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It is not only the production process that is experiencing shortages. Soups, cereals and detergents are all running lower than normal, Sands said.

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Many shoppers have noticed empty shelves where Kellogg’s grain is usually in stock, e.g.

Kellogg Canada said in an email statement that higher home consumption combined with supply chain challenges has affected the availability of some products in Canada, such as Kellogg’s Rice Krispies grain.

The company said the “intermittent shortcomings” reflect the challenging operating environment that all manufacturers are experiencing, adding that it is working hard to get Kellogg’s grain brands back on store shelves.

About 1,400 union workers at Kellog’s factories in the United States were on strike for several weeks last year. An agreement was reached on 21 Dec.

© 2022 The Canadian Press


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