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Thursday, July 18, 2024

CHARLEBOIS: The St. Lawrence Seaway: An ignored gem Specific Instances

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The St. Lawrence Seaway, a essential component in our logistics, is at present paralyzed, highlighting the very important significance of the meals chain in our nationwide financial system.

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The continued strike that has introduced the St. Lawrence Seaway to a standstill presents a big problem for the agri-food financial system, notably within the jap area of the nation. Remarkably, this marks the primary time the Seaway has confronted such disruption since 1968. Grain farmers are urging the Canadian authorities to make sure the uninterrupted transportation of grain by the St. Lawrence Seaway throughout this yr’s harvest season contemplating the current labour strike involving Seaway staff.

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Roughly 40% of the whole commerce passing by the St. Lawrence Seaway includes agricultural merchandise. Yearly, ships ship greater than 80 million metric tons of agricultural cargo, value an estimated $40 billion on the Nice Lakes-St. Lawrence waterway. Most of this commerce sometimes happens presently of yr, involving grains from each the USA and Canada destined for worldwide export. These grains embrace wheat, corn, soybeans, barley, oats, and flaxseed. Ought to the strike persist, it has the potential to trigger important disruptions in these important commerce flows.

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It’s important to acknowledge that agri-food logistics function in each instructions. Meals processors, notably in Ontario and Quebec, may even be adversely affected as they depend on the well timed provide of essential elements to maintain their operations. Gathered manufacturing delays might create a fancy problem for your complete agri-food provide chain.

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This strike’s impression on the St. Lawrence Seaway may very well be extra extreme for our agri-food sector in comparison with the strike that affected the ports of British Columbia earlier this yr. That is primarily resulting from its timing, as we’re at present in the course of the harvest season, making these disruptions much more detrimental.

It’s typically ignored that waterways provide probably the most cost-effective and environmentally pleasant technique of transportation, largely resulting from their vitality effectivity. With our collective concentrate on decarbonizing the financial system, the St. Lawrence Seaway which opened in 1959 has aged nicely. Changing maritime transport with land-based options wouldn’t solely be daunting but additionally have a substantial environmental footprint.

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Nonetheless, the strike on the St. Lawrence Seaway shouldn’t come as a shock, given the numerous political affect held by sure unions. Now, two different strikes are additionally impacting the agri-food sector in Canada. The primary started on September twenty eighth on the Lantic-Rogers sugar manufacturing unit in Vancouver, whereas the second is ongoing in Toronto, the place a distribution middle owned by Sobeys has been at a standstill since October fifteenth. Undoubtedly, staff have rights and should be heard, but it surely’s essential to acknowledge the far-reaching implications of a labour dispute on our logistics chain, which extends nicely past our borders.

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This case not solely dangers tarnishing Canada’s popularity but additionally jeopardizing the standard of products in transit. As conflicts affecting railways and ports periodically remind us, the strike on the St. Lawrence Seaway underscores the significance of contemplating meals logistics as an important nationwide service. Having fewer than 400 workers with the ability to carry 1000’s of farmers and companies hostage is unacceptable, particularly at present, with all of the prevailing market uncertainties.

We regularly fail to comprehend the importance of important parts till they develop into scarce or a urgent concern. Many Canadians go by this waterway steadily with out appreciating its essential position. The St. Lawrence Seaway is certainly a gem inside our logistics infrastructure, and the truth that it’s at present affected by a labour dispute is trigger for concern.

Our meals provide chain is the spine of our financial system, full cease. It’s crucial that we acknowledge this significance and search options to stop future disruptions in our agri-food logistics, which endanger our financial system and worldwide popularity. We can’t afford to let this labour dispute extend indefinitely.

— Dr. Sylvain Charlebois is senior director of the agri-food analytics lab and a professor in meals distribution and coverage at Dalhousie College

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