Potential turkey shortage on Christmas from B.C. flooding, supply-chain issues

Supply-chain issues across the country could threaten the availability of a Christmas dinner staple: turkey.

Washed-out highways in British Columbia have made it hard for turkey shipments to end up where they need to be, leaving experts to warn that some people may not find what they're looking for in advance of Christmas.

"There's limited sizes," Munther Zeid, owner of Food Fare, an independent grocery chain in Manitoba, told CTV News. "Twelve to 15 pounds seem to be the only size available."

The flooding also dwindled the amount of livestock in the province. Last week, British Columbia's Department of Agriculture reported that 628,000 poultry had died in the flooding, in addition to 12,000 pigs and 420 cows.

British Columbia's lower mainland, where the bulk of the flooding is located, is responsible for 13 per cent of Canada's turkey production, according to a report last week from The Canadian Press.

The flooding has exacerbated the issue, but farmers had already slowed down turkey production in advance of Canada's second pandemic holiday season.

"We made some estimates hoping that we would know exactly what the demand would be, but we are going in with the lowest inventories we've had in at least 20 years," said Michel Benoit, general manager of the British Columbia Turkey Marketing Board.

Last month, Brian Ricker, chair of the Turkey Farmers of Ontario and owner of a mid-sized farm in Dunnville, Ont., told The Canadian Press that those looking for a turkey shouldn't worry, but should expect to search for the perfect bird.

"It's likely that you'll be able to find a bird," he said. "You'll just have to go to a second store to look, or a third store to look.”

Canadians can also expect to pay more than normal for their turkey. Industry experts have said that shoppers can expect to pay as much as 25 per cent more for a turkey than the previous season. The shortages are not exclusive to turkeys, either. Ontario's LCBO is warning of shortcomings in the alcohol sector, while supply-chain issues are also making it hard to find some holiday gift items and even mandarin oranges.

"If you see it, get it," Zeid said. "That's very good advice right now. If you see it, take it."

With files from The Canadian Press