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Border blockade critical risk for fragile supply chains
Created on 8/30/2022 2:07:29 PM

Written by Michael Graydon, CEO of Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada
Published on February 11, 2022

Supplies of essential food, health, and consumer goods have been at serious risk for many months, stemming from a wide range of long-standing structural issues, labour shortages, the ongoing impact of COVID-19, and the effects of extreme weather, among other challenges. Protests and blockades at our southern border are the latest blow, and urgent action is needed before one straw or another breaks the camel’s back.

Some 75% of trade across the border travels by truck, with much of that traffic crossing at the two border points now crippled by protestors’ blockades. Normally, between 800 and 1200 trucks transit the Coutts-Sweet Grass border cross every day, and the Ambassador Bridge is the busiest trade link in North America. More than 40,000 commuters, tourists and truck drivers carrying $323 million worth of goods cross the Windsor-Detroit border each day, supporting thousands of jobs on both sides of the border. Experts estimate that 45% of Ontario’s food enters the province via this crossing. With each day that these delays persist, the recovery time for the supply chain increases exponentially.

With both of these border crossings at a near/total standstill, Canada and the United States are losing an astonishing $44 million in trade every single day. The dollar value loss is sobering enough, and the tangible consequences are even more stunning. Trucks that cannot cross the border are full of essential ingredients and products for Canadian families already facing shortages and persistent consumer price inflation after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lower-income populations are being hit the hardest by supply chain disruptions and inflation, with prices of once low-cost staples now rising as well.

Perishable goods are, of course, at particular risk, and Canadians have few domestic sources available for fruits and vegetables during the winter months. These are far from the only products impacted. Many grocery and drugstore staples are not manufactured in Canada at all or rely on imported ingredients before making their way to store shelves.

Even before the recent crises over the trucker vaccination mandate and now the border blockades, transportation availability and costs were major contributors to the increased costs to produce and distribute goods in Canada. According to FHCP member data average overall costs are up 17%. Public Safety Canada’s own February 2022 data show that 50% of companies in the food sector were experiencing distribution challenges before the blockades began.

FHCP has joined leaders across the Canadian and U.S. business, manufacturing, and agriculture sectors in calling for a swift and immediate clearing of the blockades and timely re-opening of the affected border crossings. We urge federal, provincial, state, and local governments on both sides of the border to work collaboratively to deliver rapid solutions to the illegal blockages of traffic.

Further, as I’ve written about extensively, it is absolutely critical for government to move swiftly after resolving the crisis at hand and take decisive action to strengthen food, health, and consumer product manufacturing as a core pillar of a Canadian National Manufacturing Strategy.

The speed bumps along the road of our essential supply chains are getting higher and closer together. It is long past time to smooth the road and protect it for the long haul.

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