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Grocers, feds vow to keep B.C.'s food supply chain strong

Save-On-Foods president Darrell Jones said that if helicopters are needed to ensure products get to shelves, he will do that.
Save-On-Foods has said it will pull out all the stops to ensure that its stores stay stocked with products.

Grocers and governments are vowing that B.C.'s food supply chain will stay strong, in the wake of landslides and highway collapses that have strained the province's supply chain.

Canada's Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra told media at an afternoon news conference that the federal and provincial governments have a plan to ensure food security.

"It is a priority for us to ensure that Canadians who are currently stuck, or in the middle of this affected region, don't have [food] shortages," Alghabra said.

Highway 7 is partly cleared. That route has so far been open westbound for essential travel, and to assist people stranded in Hope to get to the Lower Mainland. Highway 1, between Hope and Boston Bar, is also open for emergency access. Travel north of Boston Bar remains closed.

Crews are working to remove debris on Highway 3, with that corridor expected to open at some point this weekend, for essential travel only. 

Highway 99, between Pemberton and Lillooet, remains closed.

Significant damage has closed Highway 5 — better known as the Coquihalla Highway — and there is no official estimate for when that route could reopen.

Alghabra said that he hopes highways, and rail lines, reopen soon. 

"Once that happens, we have the ability to work with the province on using authorities to prioritize essential goods on those routes," he said.

"We're also working with CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency,) and our friends in the United States on creating a short term interim measure for truckers to drive through the U.S., crossing the border, and then back up, to to ensure that supplies are there."

Grocers say they are open to whatever strategies enable them to get food into their stores. 

Save-On-Foods president Darrell Jones, for example, yesterday said that if his company needed to use Sikorsky helicopters to move containers to Save-On-Foods parking lots at stores that are cut off from road links, he would do it. 

The company also may shift needed products to B.C. from Alberta. 

Sobeys spokesman Paul Wyke told BIV in an email that his company was "exploring all avenues" to get product to our stores as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Sobeys officials, he said, are "working diligently with our suppliers, and our transport network, to ensure goods are available to customers at our Safeway, Thrifty Foods and FreshCo stores across B.C."

He added that, like other retailers, Sobeys officials are closely monitoring and assessing  information updates from government transportation sources. 

Premier John Horgan yesterday stressed the importance for all British Columbians to buy only what they need.

"Listen to what your mom told you when you were little," the premier said.

"Do unto others as you would have [them] do unto you. Respect the fact that you do not need 48 eggs. A dozen will do. And leave the rest for somebody else."

Wyke echoed those remarks, saying that Sobeys is also asking its customers to maintain regular shopping habits, as this will help keep essential goods available to all who need them. 

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