Sugar shock: Vancouver Island businesses dealing with rising sugar costs and short supply

Sugar shock: Vancouver Island businesses dealing with rising sugar costs and short supply

Nearly two months after workers began striking at a B.C. sugar plant, Vancouver Island businesses are dealing with a rise in prices and a short supply of sugar.

To keep a steady supply of donuts readily available for customers at Empire Donuts, owner Melanie Laveric typically buys around a week’s supply of sugar. However, lately, she’s had to readjust that to a two-week supply due to job action in Vancouver.

“I was paying about $45 a bag for icing sugar, and now it’s gone up to $56 from one of my suppliers,” said Laveric.

One-hundred-and-thirty-eight workers from the Rogers Sugar refinery plant have been on strike since late September, creating a supply shortage and rising prices. The union representing the workers says the company is asking for production to run 24/7 and for 12-hour shifts.

“That is not creating a work-life balance for our members, and you’re going to be spending more time at work than you are with your families,” said Adrian Soldera, president of Public and Private Workers of Canada Local 8.

In an Oct. 24 interview with CBC, Soldera said the union asked for Rogers Sugar to hire more workers so that 12-hour shifts would not be necessary.

“They’re maintaining there is a certain headcount they have to have in the plant to make it feasible,” said the president.

Soldera says the supply mostly affects larger quantities of sugar but warns that consumers might start to feel the pinch if a deal isn’t reached soon.

“Your bakeries and stuff like that are having to outsource and find different suppliers, but again, this is also affecting Coca-Cola, Pepsi,” said Soldera.

CHEK News has asked Rogers Sugar’s parent company, Lantic, for a comment but has not heard back.

Laveric says she slowly began to see empty shelves in mid-October and isn’t raising her prices yet. She’s even made sure to help other businesses struggling to get sugar.

“I’ve reached out and said, ‘Well, hey, I can order this many bags of sugar, would you like some?’ Because I have a backup and usually have a ready supply if I really need it,” said Laveric.

Cake by Taryn owner Taryn Haywood says the community has also stepped up in helping secure sugar for her business.

“We had many community members who were sending me messages from Sidney, from Courtenay, from Comox like, ‘We got a pallet of sugar, do you want me to drive some down, we can meet in Nanaimo,’ or, ‘Who’s travelling here?’ And that was really cool to see,” said Haywood.

The support has been overwhelming for Haywood to see, but she says she’s had to turn down some customer orders.

“Generally, during the holiday season, I make anywhere from 13,000 to over 20,000 cookies. This year, as of now, I foresee that being under the 10,000 mark based on the order that I am choosing to decline,” said the owner,

Haywood expects gingerbread cookies to be the most difficult order to fulfill this holiday season. She hasn’t raised her prices either but isn’t sure that’ll remain as the holidays roll in.

The union president says they’re waiting on Rogers Sugar to return to the bargaining table.

Oli HerreraOli Herrera

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