Nova Scotia

More grocery shortages could be coming beyond storm delays, trucking association says

After a snowstorm caused significant delivery delays at some grocery stores in Halifax, the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association is warning that this could become more common amid an ongoing driver shortage.

Some Halifax grocery stores ran out of produce after this weekend's winter storm

Almost empty produce shelves are seen at a grocery store in the Halifax area after this weekend's winter storm. (CBC)

A winter storm that swept through Nova Scotia over the weekend caused significant produce shortages at some grocery stores in the Halifax area after delivery drivers were pulled off the road.

Jean-Marc Picard, the executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, said heavy snowfall made road conditions unsafe for drivers.

That delay left some grocery stores with bare shelves Saturday, particularly in the produce section.

"The downfall of it is that some stuff is going to be delayed and, unfortunately, sometimes it's groceries or fuel or medical supplies and important items like that, and it could take a few days to catch up," Picard told CBC News on Monday.

Jim Cormier, the Atlantic director for the Retail Council of Canada, said the shortage also could have been exacerbated by Nova Scotians who stocked up before the storm.

Jim Cormier, the Atlantic director for the Retail Council of Canada, says retailers have been dealing with supply challenges since the pandemic began, and they're prepared to continue. (Preston Mulligan/CBC)

"You can almost guarantee in a Maritime environment, when we see storms coming, people buy maybe a little bit extra," Cormier said Monday.

"And retailers do what they can to ensure that they have extra on hand but you can only do that with so many certain products."

Although most stores had been restocked as of Tuesday, Picard said this recent delay could be just the beginning.

Picard said delays could become more common as the industry faces a driver shortage during the Omicron wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance says there's already a shortage of about 18,000 drivers.

"This is probably the worst it's ever been … and it's not getting any easier," Picard said.

"With COVID in the mix [and] the vaccine mandates coming, I think it's just going to be a real tough haul there for the next little while."

Starting later this week, essential workers returning from the United States will need to be fully vaccinated with two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, and vice versa later this month. 

Jean-Marc Picard, the executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, says upcoming vaccine mandates could impact the industry even more. (CBC)

"It could create a huge hole in in the supply chain so we're estimating maybe 10-15 per cent, we're going to lose people," he said. 

"And if that happens, buckle up, it's going to be a tough situation to manage." 

Meanwhile, Cormier said this is not a "sky is falling scenario" and retailers are prepared to deal with supply chain issues.

"These things do happen from time to time … they'll go up and down this fourth wave," he said. 

"Who knows where that will land? But as of right now, grocers are still maintaining the supply chain to the best of their abilities."

With files from Preston Mulligan