Wet’suwet’en rail blockade could impact food prices in Atlantic Canada

As the rail blockade[1] on Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Belleville, Ont., enters its eleventh day, there is concern it could have an impact on food prices in Atlantic Canada. The protest, which is in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en[2] hereditary chiefs' opposition to the £6-billion, 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline that crosses their traditional territory in northwestern B.C, has cut off rail links across the country and ceased all rail operations in the Atlantic region. READ MORE: Wet'suwet'en protests: Here's what's happening across Canada[3]

Sylvain Charlebois, the director of Dalhousie University's Agri-Food Analytics Lab, says much of the food on shelves makes it's way to the East Coast by rail. "For long distances, rail is the preferred choice, it's much cheaper," said Charlebois.

"As soon as you put cargo on wheels you're increasing your logistical costs by anywhere from 30-50 per cent."

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Story continues below advertisement Charlebois says that there is a chance the cost could be passed on to the consumer.

"Distributors won't play around with prices if the situation lasts a few days," said Charlebois. "But if it goes on and reaches the 20 day mark, or the 30 day mark you have to get your money -- you have to cover your cost. So, you may actually see [food] prices fluctuate a little bit." The region is already facing a propane shortage due to the rail blockade, with companies rationing propane to stretch out the remaining supply.

2:04Blockades impacting Atlantic Canadian businessesBlockades impacting Atlantic Canadian businesses

On Friday, Wilson Fuel president Ian Wilson warned if they hadn't started rationing early on, they would have been out of propane by the weekend.

When it comes to food, Charlebois says he's already noticed some empty shelves at stores, which is unusual this time of year. "I saw empty shelves for ketchup, mayonnaise, jello. These types of products typically wouldn't run low this time of year," he said.

Charlebois says he cannot confirm the empty shelves are a direct result of the rail blockade and neither Sobeys nor Loblaws responded to a request for an interview about the situation. Charlebois also notes that ongoing food shortages likely won't be a problem, as the region imports products from Europe by sea, which so far has not been impacted. Products from elsewhere can be shipped by truck, something that won't take longer, but will cost more.

READ MORE: Almost 9 out of 10 Canadians feel food prices are rising faster than income: survey[5] However, he says relying on trucks for the duration of the rail blockade comes with more complicated challenges than just increased costs. Story continues below advertisement

"A lot of trucking companies are getting more contracts, so there could be shortages in terms of capacity for trucking.

And obviously, with Ontario [having] 14 million people to feed versus a few million in the Maritimes, economics could actually play against us."

Charlebois says this whole situation has pointed to a failure in Canada's supply chain, calling it fragile and vulnerable.

"The disruption points to that fact so we need to think differently about logistics overall beyond whats going on with this event."

Tweet This[6] Wet’suwet’en rail blockade could impact food prices in Atlantic Canada 0:30Trudeau says they are working to resolve rail blockades 'quickly and peacefully' Previous Video Next Video

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Wet’suwet’en rail blockade could impact food prices in Atlantic CanadaWet’suwet’en rail blockade could impact food prices in Atlantic CanadaJOURNALISTIC STANDARDS Wet’suwet’en rail blockade could impact food prices in Atlantic CanadaWet’suwet’en rail blockade could impact food prices in Atlantic CanadaREPORT AN ERROR[7][8]

References

  1. ^ rail blockade (globalnews.ca)
  2. ^ Wet'suwet'en (globalnews.ca)
  3. ^ Wet'suwet'en protests: Here's what's happening across Canada (globalnews.ca)
  4. ^ Tweet This (twitter.com)
  5. ^ Almost 9 out of 10 Canadians feel food prices are rising faster than income: survey (globalnews.ca)
  6. ^ Tweet This (twitter.com)
  7. ^ Journalistic standards (globalnews.ca)
  8. ^ Report an error (globalnews.ca)

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