‘This is madness’ – Asian grocery stores slammed by Port of Vancouver backlog

Empty shelves in Asian markets cluttered with imported products and specialty goods

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Two trucks left Vancouver on Thursday for Calgary, carrying $109,000 of ginger ale from China and dragon fruit from Vietnam. Sitting in port on the BC coast, the cargo had been in limbo on the ships for almost two weeks.

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That two truckloads are now on the road is a victory for Calgary-based products firm Thomas Fresh Inc., which imports Asian fruits and vegetables and sells them to retailers in western Canada. The company has not been able to take a single container from Vancouver as floods and landslides destroyed provincial highways and rail lines earlier this month.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the locusts come,” said Thad Kaniewski, chief operating officer at Thomas Fresh. This week BC was ready for another wave of hurricanes.

One of the knock-on effects of the crisis in B.C. has been empty grocery shelves, not only in hard-hit communities inside the province, but in most of the Asian markets in western Canada, which are home to imported products and specialties coming in through Vancouver. heavily dependent on goods. ,

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I wouldn’t be surprised if the locusts come

Thad Kaniewski

A family-run Asian grocery in Edmonton, 99 Supermarket Ltd., had to limit purchases to two products per customer earlier this week as supplies ran short.

“There was some panic buying,” General Manager Jordan Tran said on Wednesday. “The news spread very quickly… It became a domino effect. I couldn’t get a shipment from Vancouver.”

Tran said the pandemic-related backlog at the country’s main western port in recent months has made it difficult to bring imported products into stores. The flood ruined everything.

“I would say 20 to 30 percent of our shelves are empty,” he said, adding that some types of soy sauce, fish sauce, baking supplies and noodles, among other pantry staples, are out of stock. “Over the weekend, our produce shelves were completely empty.”

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His order of salted duck eggs has been on the ship for two months and was still waiting to be unloaded by Thursday in Vancouver. She added that eggs have a shelf life of six months, so they’ll have little time to sell them whenever they arrive.

Tran was expecting a truckload of produce and imported dry goods to arrive from Vancouver on Saturday, now that substantial highways between BC and Alberta have reopened, though some have just one lane.

Trucks carrying produce from Vancouver were also expected at the Great Asian Market in Regina, part of a chain of four stores in Saskatchewan. Store manager, Tony Lynn, said some of their fresh produce stocks have been out-of-stock or sold out, including Daikon and Winter Melon.

“Last week our produce was almost sold out so I ordered a lot from Toronto,” he said.

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It will affect everyone. But it’s the little guys who will be spoiled

Lance Dee Wally

B.C. Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Rob Fleming told reporters Friday that about 4,000 commercial trucks had used the repaired Highway 3 corridor that runs from the southern end of the province to Alberta. But that morning, the route was again temporarily closed due to a “serious accident”.

To help the battered supply chain this week, Air Canada added 586 tons of cargo capacity in and out of Vancouver — a 45 percent increase. The Canadian National Railway Company is expected to resume service “soon”, Fleming said, and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. will be running trains between Vancouver and Kamloops, BC from Tuesday, effectively serving the vital port and the rest of Canada. Effectively restoring a rail link between the parts. , CP spokesman Salem Woodrow said the railway was trying to clear a backlog of cargo shipments and was planning a move “towards full operations in the coming days”.

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But that progress could be undone as the province sees more “atmospheric river” weather events, the first of which are expected to hit later this week, according to the province’s River Prediction Center. The worst of the storm is predicted to hit early next week, with provincial officials warning of heavy rain and strong winds that risk more landslides and power outages.

“Staff are continuing to repair and upgrade the corridors and conditions are far from normal,” Fleming said at a news conference on Friday.

Poor conditions and road closures have resulted in long journeys through BC for truck drivers, including detours, delays and roundabout routes – costing additional labor and fuel through the US for trucking companies to raise rates. is motivating.

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For example, Calgary-based East West Express Inc. has increased its rates by 30 percent, according to co-owner Lance de Waal.

“We have far more hours and far more miles,” he said. “I can’t absorb it.”

East West, which specializes in food haulage, has been overwhelmed this week with requests to pick up all kinds of imports from the coast. “I get calls all day long from people I’ve never heard of, wanting to move not only a little bit of freight but also freight trucks,” he said. “There is no truck to carry the backlog.”

The backlog is resonating across the supply chain, he said, but some of the hardest hit are independent Asian grocers — as far as Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

“This is madness,” said de Waal. “It will affect everyone. But it is the little people who will get screwed.”

• Email: jedmiston@postmedia.com | Twitter:

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