Tough turkey: expect prices to rise, bird shortage this holiday season

Jerry Kamphuis wants his longtime loyal customers to come first this year when it comes to a Christmas turkey.

The owner of Country Lane Farms near Strathmore, Alta. Saw such a sudden surge in new customer inquiries in November that he decided to contact existing customers to make sure they had a chance to get the first dibs on a holiday bird.

“We saw 24 new customers in the last week alone. And normally we don’t see more than one a day, ”said Kamphuis, who sells fresh and frozen turkeys direct to consumers and plans to sell this year. “Today alone there were four new people. “

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If the Kamphuis experience is any indication, Canadians seem to be scrambling to get that perfect fowl long before Christmas dinner. And early risers may be on to something – industry experts say the country’s turkey stocks are at their lowest for 30 years, a fact that’s complicated by supply chain headaches at across the country.

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Brian Ricker, owner of a medium-sized turkey farm near Dunville, Ontario. and is also president of Turkey Farmers of Ontario, said turkeys in Canada are under supply management. This means that the industry aims to match production with demand each year, thus ensuring a fair income for farmers.

Last year, due to uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the industry reduced production. But Ricker said demand for whole poultry has not declined as expected in 2020, and although turkey farmers are striving to increase production, there should still be supply pressures this season. vacation.

“Chances are you can find a bird, you will probably have to go to a second store to look or a third store to look,” Ricker said.

“The store you used to shop in your community could very likely be sold out. “

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Turkey’s access is expected to be the most difficult in British Columbia, where flooding has closed highways and affected the transport of all kinds of goods, including turkeys. The Lower Mainland of British Columbia is also a key agricultural region for the province, which is responsible for 13 percent of Canada’s overall turkey production.

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It’s unclear how many birds were lost when floodwaters left barns and farms under meters of water earlier this month. Michel Benoit, general manager of BC Turkey Farms, says only two of the province’s 64 turkey farmers are located in the flood evacuation zone.

However, Benoit said that while there are still plenty of turkeys in British Columbia, getting them to stores could be a challenge.

“The biggest issue will be the roads,” said Michel Benoit, general manager of BC Turkey Farmers. “Will the roads be open enough to allow the flow of product into and out of the Lower Mainland?” “

It is not known how stressed the turkey supply chain in British Columbia will be during the holiday season, said Maegan McKimmie, spokesperson for the national industry group Turkey Farmers of Canada, in an email. She said farmers, processors and retailers are working together to deal with the implications of the flood disaster.

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New drone footage from Abbotsford, BC highlights widespread flooding

New drone footage from Abbotsford, BC highlights widespread flooding

McKimmie added that there is “no doubt” that there is less supply across the country this year, although she said there was no reason for the home chefs to s ‘alarm.

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“We don’t think consumers should panic – buy their turkeys this Christmas,” she said. “(They) should be able to buy when needed.”

One thing industry experts agree on, Canadians should expect to pay more for this turkey when they find it. Just as buyers saw on Thanksgiving, turkey prices rose 25% year over year due to the extreme drought last summer that wilted wheat and other forage crops in the Prairie provinces.

“Our growers have had a difficult year and a half,” Ricker said. “The high raw material prices caused by the drought have certainly affected profitability. We had to pass on higher prices which was a challenge. “

© 2021 The Canadian Press

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