(UPDATED COVERAGE, March 27) A long-running trucker strike at Port Metro Vancouver in British Columbia ended March 26 after slowing movement of fresh produce and other goods in and out of western Canada.
The strike over pay started Feb. 26 by independent truckers and later was joined by unionized drivers.
The British Columbia government introduced legislation on March 24, seeking to impose a 90-day cooling off period and threatening heavy fines to push union drivers back to work.
Ranking just behind first-rated wheat in total cargo volume, both inbound and outbound specialty crop volume accounted for 5.5 million metric tons at the Vancouver port in 2013, up 44% from 2012.
Imports of specialty crops totaled 30,900 metric tons in 2012, while outbound specialty crop volume was 5.48 million metric tons, according to port statistics.
China, Japan, South Korea and the U.S. are the four largest trading partners using the port.
Traders were having to divert some shipments to Seattle at higher costs to deal with the strike, said James Matsunaga, director of Yamato Trading Co. Ltd. The firm imports vegetables and packaged food products from Japan.
Matsunaga said that the firm is starting to run low on some stocks.
The port strike prevented packaging material and other inputs from arriving from China and other Asian suppliers, said Lindsay Zwer, spokeswoman for Windset GreenHouses LP, Delta, British Columbia. She said the company diverted some inbound shipments to Seattle and Tacoma and then trucked them to their British Columbia operation or a warehouse in the U.S.
One industry leader said the labor dispute took a toll on some traders.
“We’ve had a couple of calls from members with product that has been caught on the other side,” said Ron Lemaire, president of the Ottawa-based Canadian Produce Marketing Association.
Lemaire said some traders were looking at alternative routes that added costs to the system.