Freight backlogs leave some Baffin grocery shelves bare

Canadian North says delays prompted by latest wave of COVID-19

Iqaluit’s grocery shelves have sat empty at certain points during the most recent COVID-19 lockdown in the city, such as the Northmart shelves pictured. (Photo courtesy of Connie Naulaq)

By David Lochead

Grocery stores across the Baffin region are struggling to keep their shelves stocked due to shipping delays caused by the spread of the latest wave of COVID-19.

Empty food shelves in Pangnirtung. (Photo courtesy of Craig Bettridge)

Craig Bettridge, who lives in Pangnirtung, said he was recently able to get staples like bread for the first time in approximately two weeks.

“It had been very frustrating trying to make meals without essential foods,” he said.

Iqaluit resident Connie Naulaq says she was able to get produce from the grocery store early Sunday, but when she returned Monday, the shelves were empty once again.

“It’s pretty slim pickings and a town of 8,000 people shouldn’t have to get through it,” she said.

The backlog is blamed on weather conditions, coupled with the most recent wave of COVID-19 cases, according to Canadian North spokesperson Kevin Kablutsiak. Bad weather in Iqaluit and Ottawa over the past month has impacted flights as well.

COVID-19 has put flight crews into isolation, and a lack of testing capacity has delayed their return to work.

To help alleviate the freight backlogs, Canadian North has had two heavy-lift aircrafts bring food to Iqaluit on Friday and Saturday, with another flight planned for Monday, Kablutsiak said.

For Baffin communities outside Iqaluit, cargo has been prioritized by cancelling scheduled passenger flights that had little to no reservations and Canadian North has received help from other airlines as well.

“We continue to keep food supply chains moving, weather permitting,” Kablutsiak said.

Arctic Co-operatives spokesperson Duane Wilson said that only stores in the Baffin region are affected by the backlogs, and the challenges his company faces are similar to that of previous lockdowns prompted by COVID-19.

“The difference is that the [COVID-19] cases are more widespread and a lot deeper in each community,” he said, adding the current wave of COVID-19 cases may expose how vulnerable the supply chain to Nunavut can be.

If the operations of warehouses, trucking or other shipping-related services in southern Canada are further disrupted, “then that presents another risk or another potentially broken link somewhere else in the supply chain,” Wilson said.

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Usless Co-op Investment on

    Where is the 737 that the Co-op was touting for this very reason? If Amazon parcels can still get here but the grocery store is empty something is not right? Also didn’t Northern by an Airline with ATR and DC3 in the south? If Canadian cannot meet the commitments for freight is the Government of Nunavut still giving them bail out covid money? If they are getting that money they should be forced to charter companies like Nolinar to maintain service. This is unacceptable. Thank you monopoly air…..

    • Posted by Snacks on

      Yes, curious as well why this plane hasn’t helped with their freight backlog. Since they permanently closed Sikitu sales they should have extra staff now to help fill shelves.

  2. Posted by Old timer on

    It not fright back log arviat seeing the same in the store it the gn buying all the food store can’t keep up now .

  3. Posted by Not just in the north on

    The entire world has bare shelves. Try shopping in stores in Ontario, Quebec any province the story is the same. Stop your whining ; this is a world wide problem with suppliers having sick staff, shippers, growers, stores. Jesus have some patience and understanding. Sure its tough but we are all in it together. So me one place on the planet that is without issue.

    • Posted by Not the same… on

      With all due respect, its not the same. Imagine EVERY gtocery store in your town to have no bread (not a bad selection, or a few loafs…. NO bread, buna, wrapa, naan, bagels, etc..) and the only produce in town was 3 rotten apples and a single bag of brussel sprouts. Thats it. For 8000 people. If this was Vancouver, Toronto, or any other southern city that had NO essentials (again, not small amounts of these things or a tight selection…. NONE!) They would be heads on Pikes at the front doors of grocery stores everywhere!

      • Posted by Southern Canadian on

        For what it’s worth, there are no empty shelves here in Montreal, and the same is true in Toronto. Prices are slightly higher than two years ago, but a wide variety of food is readily available in every grocery store here. This food shortage seems to be a problem specific to Canada’s Northern communities …

  4. Posted by Uvanga on

    This is so daunting… the importance of traditional knowledge is so huge for times like these. Unfortunately not too many Inuit in our communities read online news. I can see the traditional foods being sold are probably going up in prices. not good.

    • Posted by Ostermann on

      When you say traditional knowledge, do you mean knowing how to endure long periods of privation? Or building igloos on the ice and hunting seal, which would be custom at this time of year for many tribes before and even following initial contact with Europeans?

  5. Posted by Finally on

    We have the highest food insecurity rate in Canada. Now NTI and Gn are providing food hampers to those in isolation. Of course the shelves are bare. As more and more money is provided for food relief, the bare shelves will continue.
    I for one am happy that many families finally have food. Shelves will be restocked within a few days to a week.

    • Posted by MARS on

      I agree with you. The bare shelves is due to the food hampers being given out.

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