Turkey inventories are at the lowest point in more than two decades, and production is down 30 per cent in 2021, according to the BC Turkey Marketing Board (BCTMB), on Dec. 10., which may attribute to a turkey shortage in northwest B.C. this holiday season.
“The inventories are at the lowest levels they’ve been in 20 years,” Michel Benoit, General Manager of the BCTMB, told Black Press Media.
While turkeys are scarce and the freezers empty of the big birds at Prince Rupert grocery stores, Benoit said they can not predict if there will be a shortage of the holiday meat as it is all based on market need.
“We don’t know what the demand is going to be. So we really would need to know [that] before we can determine if there’s enough or not enough … And the reason for that is when COVID hit, inventory started accumulating significantly, so there were some production cuts that were done at the time.”
Prince Rupert Safeway store manager Ranjit Gill said he’s not rushing out to buy his turkey right now and hasn’t heard of any turkey shortage as his supplies come from production warehouses in Edmonton or Calgary. He said the store received a shipment of two pallets of turkeys, approximately 300 birds, on Dec. 9. However, when Black Press Media visited the store on Dec. 11, there were no turkeys available in the freezers.
The same results were found at Save-On-Foods, where customers were told on Dec. 11 a truck would be in later that day. The store has notices posted at each register limiting one turkey per customer, citing a turkey shortage. At 9:30 p.m., there were fewer than eight frozen turkeys in the freezer, with customers quickly buying them up.
Maverick Mart sells free-range turkeys from a Dawson Creek supplier. Store co-owner Rick Talyor said on Dec. 13 that despite requesting to increase their usual order, they were allocated only 120 birds — all of which have been pre-sold with deposits accepted. They are not able to obtain more, Taylor said.
Benoit said a high volume of turkey sales was lost when people started to work from home and not buy deli lunches, sandwiches, or eat in restaurants. Also significantly affecting sales was the loss of Thanksgiving functions and Christmas parties, events in hotels where there may be carving stations, banquets, and anywhere people eat a lot of turkey.
“We lost all that production. We needed to make cuts so that our inventories would not continue to balloon out of proportion. Once you make those cuts, it takes at least a minimum of six months from the time you think of growing more turkey to the time they’ll actually be on the site.”
Benoit said stores don’t want to carry a load of turkeys too early in the season, and they will probably see shipments shortly.
“There are some logistical issues that are causing some delays in turkey shipments right now. The only way you can get out of the Lower Mainland is from Highway 3 … So that has put on incredible logistics delays in trucking,” he said.
Turkey growing volumes were increased twice this year and the barns are fuller than they were this time last December, but the question remains surrounding what the 2021 demand will be, Benoit said.
“I’m a bit nervous with this Omicron variant. There are still two weeks between now and Christmas … will there be some [health] orders imposed? Will there be some reductions on gatherings? At the end of the day, depending on what potential orders might be in place there may be plenty of turkeys by the time we look at the storage stock in January.”
Representatives from Save on Foods were not available for comment
K-J Millar | Journalist
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