Supply chain disruptions and panic buying quickly empty Northwest grocery stores

The produce aisle at Safeway in Smithers was all but empty following a panic-buying spree on Nov. 16. (Thom Barker/Smithers Interior News)The produce aisle at Safeway in Smithers was all but empty following a panic-buying spree on Nov. 16. (Thom Barker/Smithers Interior News)
Empty shelves in Save-On-Foods, following Tuesday’s panic-buying spree. (Binny Paul/Terrace Standard)Empty shelves in Save-On-Foods, following Tuesday’s panic-buying spree. (Binny Paul/Terrace Standard)
Some food and supply retailers in Prince Rupert have voiced concerns about product availability after highway closures and flooding in the Lower Mainland on Nov. 15. Various shelves are empty at Save On Foods, on Nov. 16. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)Some food and supply retailers in Prince Rupert have voiced concerns about product availability after highway closures and flooding in the Lower Mainland on Nov. 15. Various shelves are empty at Save On Foods, on Nov. 16. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
The produce aisle at the Prince Rupert Safeway lay near empty on Nov. 16, after flooding and highway closures in the Lower Mainland have affected food purchasing. (Photo: Norman Galimski/The Northern View)The produce aisle at the Prince Rupert Safeway lay near empty on Nov. 16, after flooding and highway closures in the Lower Mainland have affected food purchasing. (Photo: Norman Galimski/The Northern View)
Emptied fresh produce shelves in Save-On-Foods, following the panic-buying spree that took place on Tuesday. (Binny Paul/Terrace Standard)Emptied fresh produce shelves in Save-On-Foods, following the panic-buying spree that took place on Tuesday. (Binny Paul/Terrace Standard)
The produce aisle at Safeway in Smithers was all but empty following a panic-buying spree on Nov. 16. (Thom Barker/Smithers Interior News)The produce aisle at Safeway in Smithers was all but empty following a panic-buying spree on Nov. 16. (Thom Barker/Smithers Interior News)

A combination of supply chain disruptions due to flooding and highway closures in southern B.C. and panic buying has shelves in grocery stores throughout northwestern B.C. quickly emptying.

“At this time, all shipments in and out of the lower mainland are on hold based on the current road conditions. We are exploring all avenues to get product to our stores as quickly as possible,” Save On Foods media relations told Black Press Media in an email on Nov. 16.

“We understand that these are uncertain times and many people just want to do what’s right for their families,” the email stated. “We’re asking our customers to maintain normal shopping habits.”

In Prince Rupert Nancy Kainth Bhandal, owner of Henry’s B-Y Market, said she has spoken to several of her suppliers and it won’t be until next week when businesses will have a clearer view of what product has been able to make it down the line and how those suppliers will adapt.

“They don’t have definite answers yet just because they themselves aren’t sure yet,” Kainth Bhandal said.

READ MORE: B.C. storm disrupts supply chain, could have lasting impacts on economy: experts

While there may be supplies in warehouses in Prince George, she said, it’s a matter of how much there is and if suppliers are going to be able to meet the demand as much of the product comes from the Lower Mainland. It’s a ‘wait and see’ situation, with her supplier telling her the situation may be cleared up in five days, Kainth Bhandal said.

As concerns over supply chain issues in northern B.C. rise, North Coast NDP MLA Jennifer Rice, the parliamentary emergency preparedness secretary, said there is no need to panic shop.

“Many of our products come from the eastern part of Canada and are not impacted by the infrastructure challenges we’re experiencing in the southern parts of our province,” Rice posted on her social media page.

“There will indeed be interruptions but we have alternate methods of getting goods to northern B.C. if needed. Please be kind and considerate of your neighbours and resist the urge to stockpile, ” she advised.

At larger grocery stores from Smithers to Prince Rupert, some aisles, particularly produce, dairy and bakery, lay near empty by 4 p.m. on Nov. 16.

Prince Rupert Safeway manager, Ranjit Gill, told The Northern View in Prince Rupert the company is working hard to take care of customers by getting products as quickly as possible.

“I’m not worried at all,” he said, adding he had just excited a company zoom call addressing the issue and the grocery chainstore will be focussing on taking care of northern customers due to the distance products must travel.

Jason Zimmer, chef at Breakers Pub in Prince Rupert, said he isn’t worried “too much” about any supply chain disruptions. However has been told by suppliers they cannot guarantee anything, but they have plans in place to continue deliveries.

Smaller establishments, such as restaurants, may not be the main priority for huge supply companies, Zimmer said, adding that his suppliers have made no promises, but the plan is to have supplies delivered by Nov. 18 or 19 and may include shipping from Alberta.

The proximity to northern work camps and larger restaurants in Terrace works to our advantage, Zimmer said.

“If they can get food up to Terrace and the work camps, they can get food to us.”


 
Norman Galimski | Journalist 
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