B.C. dairy processors exploring options for sourcing milk during flooding


Editor’s note: Updated story and headline on Nov 21, with comments from a spokesperson for B.C. Dairy.

British Columbia’s milk supply chain is facing significant disruptions and challenges, as flood waters continue to flow over the Sumas Prairie and other parts of the Fraser Valley.

Accounting for more than 75 per cent of milk production, farms in the area are either under water or are completely cut off from milk truck pick up routes due to washouts and mud slides.

63 per cent of normal milk production for the province was picked up on November 18, according to B.C. Dairy.

B.C. is part of the Western Milk Pool (WMP), which includes Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Within the WMP, milk can move between provinces; however, there’s still serious logistical issues to overcome in order for B.C.’s milk demand to be met. And that’s assuming the Prairie Provinces can ramp up production quickly.

It’s possible that processors in the Vancouver area could resort to importing milk from the U.S.

“Processors have the ability to source milk from the U.S. They are exploring that option until we receive access to more of our local milk supply,” says a spokesperson for B.C. Dairy, in a Nov. 20 email to RealAgriculture.

In an earlier statement, B.C. Milk said it was still too early to know what impact wide-spread cancelled milk pick-up might have on the supply of milk products in stores.

“The B.C. Milk Marketing Board is prioritizing deliveries to fluid plants to ensure consumers’ needs are being served. B.C. Dairy will work with processors to understand the impact and minimize it, ensuring the best possible supply of local food for British Columbians,” it says.

The Dairy Producers Association of Canada says that they are working with the Western Dairy Council, the federal government, and others to assess the milk and dairy products supply situation. “A collaborative effort will be needed to ensure that there are minimal effects on the supply chain for consumers while the affected farms take steps to get their operations back online. At this point, we are studying the options and the protocols to determine the proper course of action,” says president and CEO, Mathieu Frigon.

The Canadian Dairy Commission says that it has offered help to B.C.’s  provincial milk marketing board.  The CDC says it has been working with regional and national partners to evaluate “various options to ensure a continued supply of dairy products for B.C. residents,” adding that no specific options have been chosen.

Adding to the complications, the lab in Abbotsford that conducts milk testing for the region has also been flooded. Alberta and Manitoba have reportedly offered back-up lab services, but it’s unclear how that process would work.

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