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Authorities try to dispel wave of panic buying in B.C. as devastated roads and railroads rumble on supply chains

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The Rosedale grocery store ran out of milk around 1 p.m. Tuesday. The store in Rosedale, British Columbia, a small farming town about two hours east of Vancouver, did not receive a delivery all day Tuesday. The fruit and vegetable truck did not appear, nor the dairy truck or the truck carrying non-perishable foodstuffs, all because of the floods which blocked road access to much of the lowlands of the province. .

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“When we ran out of milk, it was a bit of the nervous point,” said Rosedale Grocery manager Caitlin Lajeunesse. “We had to have someone installed at our front door, just not to let people in because you couldn’t move around the store, there were so many people.”

Provincial officials and retail industry executives have tried to quell a wave of panic buying in B.C. stores since Tuesday, fearing washed-out roads and railroads could lead to damage. temporary shortages, including dairy products.

The bread is empty. As soon as we bring in bread, it leaves

Caitlin Lajeunesse, Manager of Rosedale Grocery

“We understand that these are very uncertain and stressful times, and we ask our customers to maintain normal shopping habits,” said Darrell Jones, president of the British Columbia grocery chain Save-on- Foods, in a video posted to Twitter on Thursday.

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Empire Co. Ltd., which operates 81 supermarkets across the province under the Safeway, Thrifty Foods and FreshCo banners, said Thursday it was able to send delivery trucks to all of its stores in affected areas.

“In the next 24 to 48 hours, we will start to see more deliveries arriving at our stores in the affected areas,” said spokesperson Jacquelin Weatherbee.

Buyers have “stocked up” on non-perishable food and toilet paper, she said, but can expect stocks to start improving by the weekend.

“It will take us some time to get back to normal levels,” she said. “Our teams are working tirelessly to make this happen. “

BC grocers and vendors struggle to fill empty shelves during flood
Fruit is seen on a nearly empty shelf at a Kelowna grocery store. Some out-of-province trucking companies have been unable to bring trucks into British Columbia since Saturday due to flooding. Photo by Natalie Hobbs / via Reuters

Holger Schwichtenberg, president of the BC Dairy Association, told Reuters on Thursday that dairy farmers in the region had to dump a few million liters of milk because about three-quarters of British Columbia’s milk production has been stranded for long periods of time. days due to flooding.

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“We need people to keep a cool head,” said Lenore Newman, director of the Food and Agriculture Institute at the University of the Fraser Valley. “It’s not like the pandemic where it was everywhere. This is a local crisis and Canada’s food systems are designed to adapt to local disruptions.

Severe flooding in Abbotsford, east of Vancouver, means that a significant portion of the province’s dairy, poultry and egg production will be down for weeks or even months, Newman said, although she stressed that the national supply management system will be able to reallocate products to the province.

“In the short term, it’s going to be a bit of a bump because we don’t have any working road except through the United States,” she said.

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At Rosedale Grocery, at the foot of Mount Cheam about 75 kilometers from Abbotsford, a shipment of dairy products arrived on Wednesday, after a lane of Highway 7 was opened to essential traffic. The store received two pallets of milk – double the typical order – and by Thursday afternoon it was low again.

“Probably around 4 pm we’ll be out and then it’ll come back tomorrow,” said Lajeunesse. “Normally we get a slip and it happens every three days. Going through two skids in one day is a lot. But no one is collecting it. Everyone buys a decanter or two and is doing really well.

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Judging from the hardest hit categories, she said it looked like many people were shopping to feed a crowd, as many locals are currently housing Abbotsford residents. Pasta and bakery supplies were low on Thursday.

“The bread is empty,” she said. “As soon as we bring in some bread, it leaves.”

It’s a real mess. I’ve never seen anything like it

Lance De Waal, co-owner of East West Express

East West Express Inc., a Calgary-headquartered trucking company that transports food products, has been unable to get a truck into British Columbia from Alberta since Saturday.

“It’s a real mess,” said co-owner Lance De Waal. “I’ve never seen anything like it…. We have road closures all the time. But we don’t get road closures that close all major highways for more than a week. It never happened.

The flooding will not only impact grocers in British Columbia, he said. For example, East West transports imported food through the Port of Vancouver to small independent Asian grocers in Western Canada. “They won’t be able to buy anything in their stores,” he said.

– With additional reports from Reuters

• Email: jedmiston@nationalpost.com | Twitter:

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