‘Our food is secure’ but grain exports to Asia delayed by B.C. floods

File Photo

As some of the water recedes in Abbotsford, the scope of the damage becomes more clear.

“I know of a barn that probably has 800 cows in it screaming for water. They’re not going to survive,” said Megan Kielstra, an Abbotsford farmer.

Some farms in the eastern parts of the Sumas Prairie, the heart of British Columbia’s agricultural industry, are still underwater.

Provincial officials confirmed they were able to helicopter in feed and water to some farms, but thousands of animals have already died and some are calling it an agricultural disaster.

“When you start totalling this up you’re going to get to a billion dollars I predict,” said Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun.

The 90 square kilometres that make up the Sumas Prairie is a milk, eggs, and poultry production hotbed. The floods are not only killing livestock but also disrupting the distribution of their products to British Columbians.

“Not having Abbotsford is a problem for the agri-food sector in the province. It’s a huge player,” said Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.

As local distribution slows, panic buying is leaving some store shelves bare, but officials assure British Columbians’ food will come from other parts of Canada.

“Our food is secure but we’re just rejigging routes to get it to folks, but we’re definitely not going to run out of food,” said Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture.

The bigger problem, our exports to Asia have also stalled. Grain recently harvested in the prairies is unable to make it along the washed-out rail lines to the port of Vancouver.

“That will impact revenues at the port and probably revenues for the farmers, beyond B.C.,” said Charlebois. “It’s probably going to affect farmers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba,”

The exports will likely be rerouted through the United States, resulting in a slight cost increase for consumers.

Back in Abbotsford, floodwater from the Nooksack River in the United States is continuing to flow into parts of the Sumas Prairie.

“We are still not pumping anywhere near the amount of water than what’s coming into the prairie across the border,” said Mayor Braun, who will be speaking to Washington Governor Jay Inslee regarding the issue Thursday evening.

The cloud hanging over everything — there’s more rain in the forecast.

“What I’m concerned about is what’s coming. There’s predicted 80-100 millimeters of rain coming next week,” said Mayor Braun.

Bruan says if the city’s dikes aren’t repaired in time, the disastrous flooding will return.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!