Empty grocery store shelves temporary as truckers rerouted around closed B.C. highways | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Empty grocery store shelves temporary as truckers rerouted around closed B.C. highways

Empty shelves in the meat department at the Save On Foods grocery store in the Brocklehurst neighbourhood of Kamloops, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021.

Truckers are being rerouted to bring food to grocery store shelves in B.C. as companies grapple with closures of major highways from the Lower Mainland.

While flooding and landslides have shut down highways to the Lower Mainland that would normally see constant a constant flow of commercial trucks, B.C. Trucking Association president Dave Earle said many companies are actively rerouting their drivers.

"What's going to happen is we're gonna have bumps, but we're not going to have shortages. You're not going to see those empty shelves for weeks on end," Earle said.

In the immediate days after flooding forced residents out of their homes in the communities of Merritt, Abbotsford and Princeton, the highway and rail line damage has shocked supply chains.

Shoppers have flocked to grocery store shelves to buy up essentials, appearing to anticipate a long-term disruption of supply chains.

READ MORE: The latest news on mudslides and flooding in British Columbia

In Thompson-Okanagan, Earle said distribution from Edmonton or Calgary can still bring produce to the Interior, while California produce can be rerouted to other border crossings.

Getting groceries from highly productive farms in the Abbotsford area may be a challenge, but transport companies are looking forward to a partial opening of Highway 3 once the Ministry of Transportation allows emergency and commercial transit.

Options are also being explored to travel south of the border and use highways in the United States.

Earle said the grocery panic reminds him of the early days in the COVID-19 pandemic, and he doesn't believe it's warranted now.

"I understand the anxieties... but really, particularly in Kamloops, you're hosting thousands of people who have no place to go home to," Earle said. "They don't have a pantry to open and pick out what they have."

Earle added that he may anticipate a relative increase in prices due to transportation, but he said transportation only accounts for roughly 10% of the price tag once a product hits the shelves.

"While we see short-term pressures on costs, don't anticipate huge jumps in anything," he said.

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

Highway 3 is anticipated to be the first of the affected routes to open after mudslides and flooding rocked B.C. While commercial truckers may prefer the Coquihalla or the Trans-Canada to cross the mountain passes, food will be back to grocery store shelves.

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming said Highway 7 has been reopened for emergency vehicles, while maintenance workers are preparing to rebuild the road when it's safe.

"Our number 1 priority is getting our roadways back up and in operation, and we will provide whatever resources are necessary to make that happen," Fleming said. "We fully recognize how important it is right now in British Columbia to reopen the road connections from the Lower Mainland to the Interior to get supply chains moving again."

However, damage to Highway 1 and the Coquihalla will need geotechnical assessments once conditions are dry before work can start due to the extreme damage on each road.

READ MORE: Merritt councillor starts fundraiser for evacuees awaiting emergency assistance

— With files from The Canadian Press

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