Western Canada’s sugar supply problems stem from the Vancouver refinery, where 138 workers went on strike on September 28. (Photo: The Canadian Press)
A strike at the Rogers Sugar refinery in Vancouver is taking away some of the sweetness of the holiday season for confectioners and candy makers.
Across Western Canada, small businesses that rely on sugar are struggling with shortages and higher costs as one of the country’s few sugar mills shuts down work for seven weeks.
At Le Gateau Bakeshop in Vancouver, owner Tanya Muller is becoming increasingly concerned.
During the busy period leading up to Christmas, she typically uses 150 to 200 pounds of sugar per week to make the 20 different types of Christmas cookies her bakery specializes in.
However, her wholesaler can currently give her a maximum of two bags or 40 kilograms of candy per week.
“For example, we would stand in line at Costco early in the morning and try to get in first to see what was available. Sometimes it works, and sometimes Costco doesn’t have anything,” she said.
“I’m concerned that we won’t be able to fulfill our orders, which obviously isn’t ideal for the holiday season.”
According to the Canadian Sugar Institute, Canada produces about 1.2 million tonnes of refined sugar per year, about 94% of which comes from raw cane sugar, which is imported in bulk at three refineries in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
The Toronto refinery is owned by Redpath Sugar, while the Vancouver and Montreal refineries are operated by Rogers Sugar, which markets its products under the Rogers and Lantic brands.
Western Canada’s sugar supply problems stem from the Vancouver refinery, where 138 workers went on strike on September 28.
Adrian Soldera, president of Local 8 of the Public and Private Workers of Canada union, said the union stands with Rogers Sugar on issues such as wages, benefits and the company’s proposal to increase refinery operations 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. disagreeing.
“Currently they work about 120 hours a week, Monday to Friday, 24 hours a day,” Mr. Soldera said. That’s why they want to invade our weekends.”
Mr. Soldera says he realizes the strike is having an impact on customers, even at the grocery store level, where customers are suffering sporadic shortages just as demand from home bakers begins to rise.
“I mean, this must be the time of year when the demand for sugar is at its highest,” admitted Mr. Soldera, adding that he does not know when the strike will end since the positions of the unions and employers are still very far be removed.
“Even if we went back (to work) tomorrow, the sugar wouldn’t hit the shelves at full capacity until the first or second week of December.”
For its part, Rogers Sugar argued that its Vancouver refinery continues to operate, albeit at a lower level, and that the company is using its other facilities to support its customers in Western Canada.
In an email, JS Couillard, CFO of Rogers Sugar, acknowledged that the strike has resulted in local impacts on supplies in Western Canada, particularly for brown sugar and some packaged white sugars.
However, he assured that there is “ample supply” for the company’s other products, including bulk sugar used by larger food processors and liquid sugar.
Mr Couillard added that the company remains committed to reaching a new collective agreement with its workers.
“We recognize that this has caused inconvenience to some of our valued customers,” he said. We apologize and thank all of our customers for their patience while we search for a solution.”
Amanda Stephenson, The Canadian Press
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