by Brandon Mayer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
There have been growing concerns recently that food shortages, which many people are noticing in the form of empty grocery store shelves, will only continue getting worse. A local voice, however – co-owner Jim Beveridge of the B&H grocery store in Kemptville – told the Times that the supply chain issues have been going on for quite some time, even pre-pandemic.
“Locally, yes, it’s an issue. But it’s been an ongoing issue since before COVID,” Jim said. One major reason for this that Jim identified is a shortage of truck drivers that has been ongoing for years. Jim estimated that there is a shortage of about 20,000 drivers, based on information he has heard. Another problem is that many food manufacturers have moved toward a model of scrapping smaller regional plants in favour of fewer, much larger plants.
“That works really well, until you run into a shortage of drivers, or even a mother nature event,” Jim said. He also pointed out that significant weather can impact grocery deliveries. “One day makes a big difference in how groceries are stocked.” Many consumers are likely accustomed to seeing grocery store shelves consistently full, so seeing many totally empty shelves can come as a shock, but it is not unheard of. For example, the recent strike by workers at four Kellogg’s plants in the USA ended over a month ago, but, Jim said, stores are only now starting to be able to put Kellogg’s products back on the shelves.
One aspect of Jim’s B&H store that gives it an advantage, is that it stocks a high volume of local products, which do not depend on the trucking industry to keep in stock. A truck rally, consisting of tens of thousands of trucks, began a cross country journey last week to protest federal vaccine mandates. Most sources are blaming the current worsening of supply chain issues on this large volume of trucks being out of service, as well as thousands of others, the drivers of which cannot ship products from the USA without being vaccinated against COVID-19.
Jim believes the link between the convoy and the supply chain issues is weak, but that the shortages are because of the increasing challenges in transporting goods, such as wildfires and traffic accidents. He proposed a simple solution to the complex problem: we should simply look at producing more of our food right here in Canada.