B.C. coffee drinkers embittered by flood-caused milk shortage

Milk appears to be in short supply in B.C. coffee shops, as the province’s flood emergency continues to hamper supply chains.

Highway closures through southern B.C., due to landslides and washouts, are leading some products to be noticeably absent from store shelves.

Fans of the coffee chain Starbucks have taken to social media to express their dismay with how a recent milk shortage is impacting their favourite drinks.

“We have closed some stores and reduced hours of operation at several other locations due to various levels of products available to our customers,” Starbucks Canada wrote in a statement Tuesday.

It’s not the only company impacted. Some McDonald’s customers were also told to enjoy an americano instead of a cappuccino in the Lower Mainland in recent days.

Many others have headed to the supermarket, only to find few milk products to buy, and limits in place.

A photo of a sign in a Langley supermarket explaining a limit on milk purchases

A sign at a Langley Save On reads that customers are limited to 4Ls of milk due to a shortage. Nov. 22, 2021. (CityNews)

While it may not be lifechanging for consumers, the shortage is highlighting how the plight of many farmers affects those kilometres away.

B.C. dairy farmers trying to get back on their feet

The Fraser Valley region boasts many of the province’s dairy farms and even the farms which stayed dry were still impacted by the flood.

BC Dairy chair Holger Schwichtenberg says washed out roads and highway closures led to a major shortage, due to the inability for trucks to pick up milk.

Recently, some highways have reopened to essential travel and commercial vehicles, and although it’s a sign of some recovery, there remains about a 20 per cent shortage in the milk supply chain.

“Eighty per cent of the milk being produced is being picked up and all the processing needs for the fluid side of the market is being met right now. So any shortages that you see will be very temporary and a customer be a little patient, we will get things back to normal as quickly as we can,” Schwichtenberg said, crediting the resiliency of farmers in the face of this emergency.

Weather depending, he estimates some return to normal in the coming days.

Traffic is moving…slowly

It’s a team effort to get B.C.’s supply chains back on track. With assistance from the U.S. government and Canadian Border Services Agency, some truckers are doing transit routes through the U.S. to avoid the highway closures and delays in Canada in order to get products from east to west.

“We do need to see that food moving both ways in the provinces to restock those shelves. But also know there’s food coming in from the Alberta side, which is also restocking. Initially there was some hoarding happening, and in some cases that’s continuing. But we also seeing British Columbians understand that they need to do their part,” B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said on Nov. 20.

She says other provinces are also assisting in milk testing, as the main facility in Abbotsford has been nonoperational due to extreme flooding, and all samples must be sent out in order to ensure the products are safe for consumption.

While the floods are having an immediate impact on many day-to-day lives, the supply chain was already strained due to other factors.

There remains massive delays in the shipping industry worldwide, and in Canada, there are not enough truck drivers.


It’s expected the resumption of rail traffic will also help get more products back to stores.

Until Dec. 1, restrictions are in place limiting gas purchases to 30 litres per visit in southwest B.C., Vancouver Island, and the Sunshine Coast.

The federal government announced as a result of those limits, British Columbians needing to buy gas or groceries for essential reasons can cross to the U.S. without the need for a COVID-19 test when they return.

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