What Western Canada’s sugar shortage means for casual and professional bakers
Holiday baking plans might be put to a halt this year due to a sugar shortage. The Rogers Sugar refinery in Vancouver has been involved in a labour dispute. As a result of the strike, sugar has become a limited commodity. Grocery stores now have a limited supply of sugar on their shelves, and bakeries and confectionaries are struggling to produce goods.
The Rogers Sugar strike is going on its 10th week. On Sept. 28, 138 workers organized a strike to protest the expectations their employer had set. One of these expectations included shifting the factory operation hours to 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Factory workers were also expected to work 12-hour shifts.
In Western Canada, the price of sugar has surged while the availability of bags at grocery stores has decreased. Rogers Sugar states that it is using other facilities to produce sugar for its western consumer base.
The shortage of sugar has become a point of concern for both bakeries and those baking at home. This frustration may be particularly apparent due to the holidays coming up, a period in which consumers become more interested in holiday baking and sweets.
Many bakeries in Edmonton are feeling the pressure, especially with the holidays approaching. Lisa Hernandez, an Edmonton baker, has noticed the lack of supply.
Hernandez operates her own bakery within her house, and produces baked goods that people order and commission. She typically receives two to four custom orders, but bakes for her friends and family.
The sugar shortage had only become apparent to her once she actually heard about it. “When you go to buy,” Hernandez says, “the shelves are already empty.”
To prevent shoppers from buying out the limited stock of sugar, grocery stores have taken preventative measures. Some stores have placed a limit on how many bags of sugar customers can purchase, preventing “panic buying.”
Price gougers have spotted an opportunity in the low supply, and have started selling bags of sugar on Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji; however, listed prices are shown to drop, indicating that sugar is not so unavailable as to drive people to purchase it through online marketplaces.
Hernandez is in a unique position. While she is not the owner of a commercial bakery, she bakes far more than the average person. Hernandez also buys her supplies in advance. “I usually purchase the 20-kilogram bags which last me two months, roughly,” says Hernandez.
“So far, I’ve been lucky as I have sugar to last me for the next six months,” says Hernandez. “By then, hopefully, sugar will be readily available.”
Graphic by Shelby Mandin