Product prices in BC are expected to rise as the vaccine mandate for truck drivers takes effect

Shipping a truckload of fresh produce from California or Arizona to Canada now costs $ 9,500, up from an average of $ 7,000, according to North American Produce Buyers. It provides an additional cost of 12 Canadian cents per. salad.

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Chefs from BC may have to embrace cabbage and kale this winter, as a vaccine mandate for truck drivers crossing the border between Canada and the United States is expected to intensify supply chain problems and cause food prices to skyrocket.

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The federal mandate, which went into effect on January 15, requires Canadian hauliers returning to Canada to be vaccinated to avoid quarantine, while unvaccinated U.S. hauliers are returned at the border. The United States is set to adopt its own vaccine mandate on Jan. 22, taking as many as 16,000 drivers off the road, according to the Canadian Trucking Association.

“Without the mandate, there was already stress on the supply chain,” said Mick Tkac, production director for SPUD.ca, a grocery delivery service specializing in local and organic food. He cited cold weather across North America and staff shortages due to COVID-19 for expected price increases.

“There is a shortage of truck drivers in Canada and the United States, so we’ve seen late arrivals, small gaps (in product availability) and wholesalers telling us about last – minute cancellations of trucks,” he said.

Price increases are expected to follow. Shipping a truckload of fresh produce from California or Arizona to Canada now costs $ 9,500, up from an average of $ 7,000, according to North American Produce Buyers. That equates to an additional fee of 12 Canadian cents per person. salad.

“It’s hard to see how this will not affect prices,” said Sylvain Charlebois, professor and researcher in food distribution and policy at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. Canadian markets, such as Vancouver, are much smaller than large U.S. markets like New York, where there are also supply chain problems. “To get these shipments across the border, we’ll have to pay more.”

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While there may be “no way around” supply chain issues right now, some BC companies are finding a silver lining. The uncertainty allows for more seasonal eating, said Ashley Sugar, marketing manager for Organic Acres on Main Street in Vancouver. “There is enough local food for everyone.”

Vancouver’s rainy winter provides the perfect opportunity to try new soups and stews made with aged vegetables or local cabbage, she said. “People often do not know what’s in season – or that when you eat food that’s in season, it’s fresher, tastes better, and it’s more affordable.”

Ashley Sugar, marketing manager for Organic Acres on Main Street in Vancouver, with local produce in season.
Ashley Sugar, marketing manager for Organic Acres on Main Street in Vancouver, with local produce in season. Photo by NICK PROCAYLO /PNG

Sugar said she often goes through her market to talk about the benefits of foods that are in season in BC. She sometimes sees returning customers thanking her for cooking tips that emphasize local food.

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“I surprise a lot of people, but they are usually quick to jump on board,” she said.

The shortage of truck drivers has also affected goods moving south. The cost of bringing food and other exports across the border has already doubled on some routes given the drop in eligible truck drivers, said Alex Crane, operations manager at Paige Logistics, a freight broker in Surrey. It has left hundreds of shipments en route to the United States waiting in department stores to be picked up and shipped when and if carriers can find drivers to haul them.

“We have shipments everywhere that do not go out,” he said. “They just sit in department stores and wait, wait.”

Truck driver Colin Valentim plans to park his truck next week because he can no longer cross the border. The Logan Lake man said he did not want to get into why he is not vaccinated – “It’s not my concern if you are or if anyone else is” – but the mandate has not convinced him to get the plug.

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Valentim said he owns and operates a truck that drives regular goods back and forth between BC and the Pacific Northwest. Since the federal vaccine mandate went into effect on January 15, he has been able to find a seasonal job as a driver for ice road fuel, but that is only temporary.

“I know many motorists who are affected by this. It has basically removed them from the workforce,” he said.

Valentim has signed on to lead the BC leg of one off-road truck convoy begins in Delta Sunday morning to protest the vaccine mandate. He is unsure how many trucks will take the trip to Ottawa, but he has had interest from truck drivers planning to attend Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Hope and Merritt for at least part of the trip. The convoy continues from Calgary on Monday to meet hauliers from the maritime provinces of the country’s capital on January 29.

“My goal is to be loud,” he said. “We may have to go a little slower than the speed limit to stay together, but we will not try to block the traffic.”

– with files from the National Post and Bloomberg News

gluymes@postmedia.com

twitter.com/glendaluymes

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