The economic toll of the multi-day border blockade imposed by protesters at the US border crossing in Coutts, Alberta. is estimated to be at least hundreds of millions of dollars and will take weeks to resolve.
The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters organization estimates that approximately $44 million in trade crosses the Coutts border in both directions each day.
It also estimates that the border sees the flow of $15.9 billion in bilateral trade each year.
“I suspect that overall the Alberta economy is struggling right now,” said David MacLean, divisional vice president for Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Since Saturday, protesters supporting a convoy of truckers opposed to vaccination mandates and public health restrictions have blocked the flow of border traffic.
The group opened a single lane of two-way traffic on Wednesday as it continued to protest in the surrounding area as a secondary protest formed.
A supply chain expert called the effects of the blockade “self-inflicted violence” against Canada’s fragile trade networks, causing “cascading ramifications on other modes of transport”.
“With the supply chain system, the problem is that they are so intertwined and interconnected with each other. A lot of the dominoes that have fallen, we don’t even see them,” said Rajbir Bhatti, associate professor of management supply chain at Mount University in Calgary. Royal University.
Certain perishable goods, including fresh beef and livestock, cannot be transported to another border crossing.
The border with Sweetgrass, Montana is Alberta’s only 24/7 border crossing with the capacity to process freight with additional processing resources.
This includes personnel from the United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Services, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
“My understanding is that it’s probably an eight to 10 hour detour to get to another (border) that will accept processed beef,” said Greg Schmidt, president of the Alberta Cattle Feeders Association and feedlot operator in Barrhead.
Schmidt says his members are starting to miss delivery dates to export live and processed beef to the United States, and much of the food is imported from the United States by rail to circumvent ground transportation issues. .
He says cattle feed costs about six to eight dollars a day, which quickly adds up if shipping schedules aren’t met – and quality is expected to suffer as well.
Some companies in the meatpacking sector have not slowed production, but say the situation is changing rapidly.
“We receive and process livestock at our normal capacity levels. We continue to monitor the situation closely. We are leveraging our broad supply chain footprint to keep markets moving for producers while meeting the needs of our customers and putting food on tables for families across Canada,” said Daniel Sullivan, spokesperson for Cargill, which operates a large meat processing plant near High River.
Industry advocates say blocking eliminates revenue and tarnishes relationships with trading partners.
“We have a (pre-existing worldwide) shortage of truckers, we’ve had to endure unrelated supply chain disruptions caused by protesters (to the railroads), natural disasters in BC. C It’s just one thing after another, and that’s why this protest just couldn’t come at a worse time,” MacLean said.
MacLean says consumers can expect to see sparse grocery store shelves and price increases as fallout.
“We’ll still get the food, but we might not get the best cut we liked or the choice we wanted, at the price we wanted,” Bhatti said.